Dealing with Negative Feedback

Having a patient or client give negative feedback on you or your team, whether in person, by email or online in a review can sometimes be hard to deal with.  Sometimes the person tells you about this at the time it happened and sometimes it is said privately and other times it might be out in the open area where everyone in the office could hear them.  Nowadays, it can be on Google Reviews, RateMDs and so on for the world to see.

You are human and so are your staff.  Things happen despite everyone’s best efforts to do their jobs well.  Examples:  the patient or client had to wait too long in the reception area as you were running behind, they took objection to your fees, they didn’t like the end result of what you did technically, a staff member seemed rude to them or off-hand, they felt you were too rushed, you didn’t explain what you were doing clearly enough, … the list can go on and on.

The main point is that the way you receive the criticism and how you respond to it will go a long way in being seen as a confident, competent professional (or not).

Negative offline feedback

  1. What is the First Rule for handling negative comments from your patients or clients? One of our clients recently said, “You have two ears and one mouth.  Listen twice as much as you speak.”  This is the best advice when you are dealing with an upset person.  Do not react defensively.  Instead, get them to tell you all about it and listen very carefully without interrupting them.  Be genuinely interested in hearing what they have to say.
  2. Next, be sure to acknowledge thoroughly what they are saying. Let the person know you completely heard and understood what they have told you.  The power of that first step of listening and then giving a really appropriate acknowledgment can almost end the upset right then and there.  “OMG, I so get what you’re saying.”  “Unbelievable.  Thank you for letting me know that that happened.  I would never have known or been able to address that issue if you hadn’t shared it with me.”  “I really appreciate you sharing that incident with me.”  And so on.  Do not react defensively or dismiss what they said.  Just let them know that you completely heard what they said.
  3. Don’t justify to the person why it “happened”. You might come across like it is all perfectly explainable why you or your staff made the mistake and this can be very irritating to the patient or client.  However, it IS okay to explain the truth of the matter sometimes.  For instance:  The schedule is running about 1/2 hour behind and the patient was upset at having to wait so long to get into see you.  If it was because you had two extreme emergencies that morning, you could let the person know that that is what happened and that you are very sorry about the delay for them.  You could let them know that you have a $5 Starbucks or Tim Horton’s card for them at reception by way of apology.  Also, point out that if they ever have an emergency situation where they need to see you right away, you will also give them the immediate care they need.
  4. Take the appropriate action to handle the situation well. If possible, do something above and beyond what is expected by the person.

Negative Online Reviews

Most of the above advice is probably equally applicable to this situation but here are a few good pointers:

  1. Your first reaction to a bad online review should probably never see the light of day. Responding in anger can make the situation much worse in the view of anyone checking your reviews.  Take the time to calm down and write out by hand or in an email to yourself what you propose to answer, before posting it online.
  2. Don’t ignore the bad review. It can be like fuel on the fire to the person who wrote it and it may escalate.  They have a problem with you or your practice and they deserve a reply.  Future readers of the review may wonder why you didn’t bother to handle it.
  3. Try not to let it get to an online battle stage. You can say that you are happy to resolve the issue and ask the person to contact you offline.  This keeps you on the high road instead of looking bad by slinging retorts back at the writer.
  4. If it doesn’t come across as self-serving, you can say: “This is Dr. ___, and I’m sorry you were unhappy with the service you received at the practice today. Our goal is for every patient to leave feeling well taken care of.  Please call or email me at _____ so I can resolve this issue to your satisfaction.”

How many stars are “good”?

Most review readers expect that you will have the occasional negative review.  If you ensure that your clients are encouraged to post their positive comments, you will keep the balance to something like 13 good reviews for every bad one.  4 and 4.5 stars is considered to be good enough to do business with.

Learn from it

Don’t forget to learn from negative reviews, whether offline or online.  It is an opportunity to build your practice stronger by ensuring that the team all learns from mistakes.

By knowing the ideal ways to react and deal with the criticism, the faster you’ll be able to recover and shine like the competent professional you are.

Keep in mind, you’re not alone.  Everyone else has been there too.


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