Here’s a not-very-well-kept secret: Most of us detest online reviews. Why? Well, isn’t it obvious?
We know that plenty of people now use them almost exclusively to find their new pets’ healthcare provider (us). So we can’t ignore them. We’re compelled to read them and make sure they say only good things about us—for the sake of our livelihood (never mind our egos).
As if it weren’t enough to have one more task to manage, now we’re told by practice management gurus (you know who they are) that we’re supposed to assign a staff member to manage these reviews and sign up for Google alerts to make sure our reputations are squeaky-clean. So it is that our already-stretched resources must be allocated in this direction—stressfully.
We know how angst-provoking reading the reviews can be. She said what about me? After all that awesome work I did on her cat? Which, of course, only makes you want to furiously check the timing on your PLIT policy. And invariably, also makes for one downer of a day.
Sure, everyone knows a disgruntled client is a hundred times more likely to leave a negative review than a perennially happy camper. It only takes a couple of angry customers to pollute your reviews. And who hasn’t had a couple of angry clients? (Some people are just naturally angry, anyway.)
In my case, the only negative online review I ever received (that I ever came across, anyway) wasn’t even a client’s. This was a prospective client who arrived 45 minutes late for her appointment without even calling to say she was running behind. My great sin was in actually stopping to introduce myself and explain that I wouldn’t be able to see her since she was so late … that I was now late picking up my son. She wrote that I condescended to her. Which I’m sure I did. (Rude people with entitled attitudes make me angry.)
Though I hated knowing that someone so annoying could write a negative review, it’s not really a big deal. I mean, now anyone looking for a new veterinarian knows how much I hate latecomers. That’s not such a bad thing to put out there, is it?
But not all veterinarians have it so easy.
To be sure, some of us get what we deserve. Our lackadaisical care might well leave the put-upon looking for some way to ensure it doesn’t happen again to another pet owner. But many of us don’t deserve any of it, much less the angry rants that sometimes accompany these “reviews.” Here’s why:
1. In veterinary medicine, writing fraudulent, flamingly negative reviews has become a problem behavior for disgruntled ex-employees. I’m sure it happens in plenty of fields (restaurants come to mind), but tech-phobic veterinarians tend to take these things hard—more so because we tend to be ill-equipped to fight back.
2. The bigger hospitals get it worse, and it’s almost always to do with money. Because big hospitals (especially ER and specialty facilities (a) have strict policies on payment, (b) don’t have the luxury of getting to know their clients (i.e., getting the benefit of the doubt) and (c) tend to deal in the toughest, most expensive cases. This perfect storm of stress can make people really, really mad.
3. We’re more sensitive than most. Let’s face it, our profession is chock-full of people-pleasers and pins-and-needles egos. It hurts more when we’re called out on either our perceived or definitive failings.
So it is that most of us hate these review sites. But I contend that veterinarians need to embrace them––not despise them or (worse) ignore them altogether. As so many other service industries have demonstrated, a cozy relationship with social media outlets pays off.
So how to manage it so it doesn’t wreak havoc with your sanity? Here are recommendations:
1. Designate a trusted social media-savvy receptionist or other staff member as your social media manager. This person should follow all the instructions the practice management mavens and moguls recommend on this subject. (They’re easy enough to look up online in all our standard publications.) Tell this person to alert you only in the event of a calamitous review. Otherwise, have her keep a list of simple critiques.
2. Take terrible reviews seriously—but never personally. As in, “It’s not personal, Sonny—It’s strictly business.” Easier said than done, but be sure to keep things in perspective. After all, it happens to all of us.
3. The key is to take your reviews seriously enough to make changes when it’s clear changes are in order. Be able to let go of your ego for long enough to have clarity on what your negative (and possibly crazy) reviewer is trying to say.
OK, so does that make me sound like a sound byte-ridden practice management guru? If it does, so be it. Take the advice for what it’s worth, from one who’s felt the wrath … but never let it take her down. Not for more than just one lousy day, anyway.
Review Reference Guide
Not sure where to start managing your reviews? Below is a listing of a few online review sites:
Dr. Khuly is a mixed-animal practitioner in Miami and a passionate blogger at PetMD.com/blogs/FullyVetted.