In the COVID-19 era, veterinary clinics have been under more pressure than ever before. Given the tremendous stress we’re all experiencing, any missteps–real or perceived–can compel customers to air their grievances out online on Google or Facebook. It comes as no surprise that we’re seeing a notable rise in negative reviews for veterinary clinics. These can have a damaging impact on businesses, which makes it critical that they’re handled swiftly, professionally, and with the utmost care.

First things first, you should be responding to all reviews—good and bad! In the veterinary world, reviews are typically reflective of relationships. Are you at risk of losing a longtime customer who left a poorly rated review? Is that person who gushed over your clinic now a customer for life? Is a potential customer looking at reviews as they consider moving their pets under your care? According to one study, responding to even scathing reviews may help your practice. Potential customers are suspicious of businesses with only five stars and positive reviews. Moreover, seeing that management takes the time to respond to reviews may dissuade customers from leaving negative ones so that they can avoid any potential confrontation, even if it’s online.

Reviews can act as a type of communication between a current customer and a potential one, who is likely checking out reviews to see if they want you to care for their pet or not. This means that when you respond to a review, your responses are not just for the person who left it—they’re also for your potential clients to see. When it comes to customer interactions, each one counts, even the ones that happen after the appointment is over. If a customer is upset, they want to feel heard and taken seriously. Responding to them is a tangible way of demonstrating this.

Here are the eight most common negative review types we see for veterinary practices:

  1. A poor rating with no explanation: As frustrating as it is, it happens. Offer a way for the person to contact you to go over their concerns.
  2. A team member was rude: Be sure to address this with your team before responding to gather more information.
  3. The customer didn’t get to see the veterinarian they wanted to see: Acknowledge their preference while emphasizing their pet is in excellent hands with anyone on your team.
  4. A complaint about a long wait or no availability: We know, the pandemic has really hit wait times hard. Briefly explain your practice’s situation given the circumstances.
  5. A smear campaign by a former employee (or someone connected to them): Submit requests for removal, and do not get into details about the employee’s dismissal online.
  6. Death of a pet: These devastating outcomes need to be handled delicately. Express your condolences and offer to connect offline to listen to their concerns.
  7. The customer thought services were too expensive: Keep your response simple by explaining what payment options you do offer.
  8. Something that’s false: Don’t try to contradict the person’s claim. Instead, state your policy (if applicable) and provide a way for them to get in touch to discuss the matter further.

If you get a negative review, don’t panic. Remember that your responses are an extension of your customer service. Here are our top recommendations for what you need to include with your response.

Respond as soon as possible.
A prompt reply shows that your customers are important to you and that your business is paying attention. Try to keep your response concise.

Accept the customer’s complaint.
Don’t argue! Getting defensive helps no one and can often make things worse. Saying something along the lines of, “We’re sorry to hear you had a negative experience with us” acknowledges the complaint without taking responsibility.

Apologize and show empathy.
Show that you sincerely care about their experience—kindness and compassion go a long way. This is especially crucial, given the sensitive nature of pet care.

Take responsibility.
Don’t try to minimize the situation. Acknowledge that their experience fell short of what your clinic’s standards are.

If appropriate, provide an explanation.
Explaining does not mean making excuses but rather giving clarity to what happened. For example, was someone not able to get a hold of you because phone lines were down? Again, keep it concise.

Take it offline.
Let the customer know you’re open to discussing their concerns more over the phone. Avoid going back and forth online for all to see. The last thing you want is for things to escalate publicly.

Offer to make amends.
Is there anything you can do to fix the situation? Express that your team will do everything they can to learn and improve, taking into account this review.

It should be noted that negative reviews are one thing, but cyberbullying and spam are another. If your practice is receiving abusive or inappropriate content, report it and request for it to be taken down.

Solid reputation management is an integral part of growing your business and improving your reputation, making your clinic more attractive to potential pet parents. It’s understandable that receiving a negative review can be upsetting, and it’s easy to want to jump in to defend your practice. Remember to remain composed and empathetic. A negative review doesn’t need to take down your business, and the right responses can supersede them in the eyes of current and potential customers.

WhiskerCloud has you covered when it comes to veterinary reputation management! We’re proud to be an agency partner of Google and Facebook, and we have the inside track on working on getting your reviews in order. Our team monitors your brand for positive and negative sentiment across the internet.

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