Online Reputation Management

Accentuate the Positive

Remember Accentuate the Positive, that classic 40’s-era song that spread a positive message during a dark period before the end of World War II?

Eliminate the negative, accentuate the positive, don’t mess with Mr. In-Between: these three lines all have applicability when you are trying to present a positive image to your potential customers. Even if their doctor refers them to your clinic or agency, many patients are going online to get a sense of the type of fertility provider you are before they make an appointment. This is all well and good if they are reading accolades and positive tributes to your expertise in helping them fulfill their dreams. But what about the not so positive ones? How will they react to them?

I am often asked by clients about how they can eliminate critical or derogatory remarks on consumer review Websites (YelpRateMDs,Vitals, etc.) or how they can monitor what patients are saying about them on popular message boards. They want to know if it is possible toeliminate the negative.

The Internet and social media have given patients a vehicle to express their opinions about your services, usually anonymously. Of course you can’t stop patients from expressing their opinions (assuming they are not committing libel); plus, you want their positive reviews to circulate around the Web.  You could hire a reputation management company to attempt to “push” down the negative comments in the search results and replace them with new favorable content. But this method does not work for patent and consumer health Websites where the negative reviews will remain and may drown out the impact of the good ones. These sites have policies about particularly offensive comments and you can try to contact them to see if you can respond. However, as health care providers, you must be particularly sensitive and vigilant about not violating patient confidentiality.

As for patient message boards (and whether any fertility provider should be participating in them in the first place unless they are explicitly allowed), that is an article for another day.

So what is an honest fertility provider, trying to provide the best results and service possible, to do?

1) Be realistic: Understand that no matter how hard you strive to get every patient pregnant and for them to have an excellent experience at your practice, occasionally you will have patients who unfairly judge you when they can’t achieve their dream. Not being successful with infertility treatment can be especially traumatic and expressing their anger through criticism can be considered a natural response for patients/clients. Patients are people and some people will never be satisfied, no matter to what lengths you go to help them. Despite this maxim, the patient/customer STILL is ALWAYS RIGHT.

2) Learn from criticism: Recognize that negative reviews can be a great learning opportunity that will help you become a better service provider. It is easy to become myopic about what you do and receiving a critique may be the impetus you need to improve your operation.

3) Be proactive and head off problems at the pass: Have an indication of which patients may be dissatisfied with your services and try to be proactive with them. In the infertility field, we are dealing with people’s most precious dreams and aspirations. Provide avenues for them to express their feedback through periodic customer surveys, suggestion boxes or their modern equivalent, and other ways to solicit their feedback. If you or your staff have identified a patient/client who is dissatisfied, give them opportunities to vent. Often, all they are looking for is someone who will treat them with respect and compassion while validating their feelings. Remember, a satisfied client might tell a few people about their experiences with you, but according to research, a dissatisfied one will talk to 19 others on average about how you did them wrong. I often see identical negative reviews on multiple physician review sites. Validation could have prevented this explosion of anger.

4) Solicit positive feedback: Remind patients that you welcome their testimonials, letters and recommendations and offer them with incentives to provide you with these.

Are bad customer reviews a deal breaker? Not necessarily if they are offset by the positive ones. Savvy consumers know that not everyone will be satisfied. In fact, I tend to be skeptical when any type of product or service receives only positive reviews and not an occasional negative one.

Would love your feedback about this article. Is it useful? What else could I have mentioned. Email me at

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