How to Manage Negative Online Reviews

The veterinary industry is a very passionate one and pet owners consider their furry friends part of the family. Sometimes experiences during visits can sometimes lead to emotional, not always positive online reviews. No business is immune to getting negative or disgruntled online reviews from time to time and veterinary hospitals are no exception. Defending your hospital online is a natural response but did you know that this can create more damage than the initial review itself?  At Community Veterinary Partners we work with each hospital team to get to the bottom of the review and discuss with the client directly.

Here’s how we respond when our animal hospitals receive a bad online review: 

A bad review is received: When a client writes a negative review online it will usually explain where the visit turned negative for them. Some examples we’ve encountered are; the front desk team being rude/short with the client, anger at being charged for many tests that a doctor suggested, a tech not bringing a client into the exam room quickly.  The practice manager should identify the appropriate team member involved and begin researching what exactly happened.

Post a public comment: Either the practice manager or social media manager in your hospital should post a public comment stating that the hospital is sorry about their experience and will reach out privately to discuss in further detail. Keep this short and sweet and avoid getting into the details of the event. The last thing you want is to argue with the client online where potential new clients can read it.

Post a private message to the user: The practice manager or social media manager should now attempt to contact the user directly, sending the same message as in the public comment. Refrain from any conversation about the actual event until you talk directly via phone or in person.

Research the event: Find out what actually happened during the visit.

  • Look through records to see who the client is and what occurred on his or her visit.
  • Speak to staff members involved
  • Decide on best person to reach out to the client directly via phone. (Usually a partner doctor if the issue was medical or practice       manager if the experience was operational in nature)

Reach out to the client directly: Once the message is posted, the practice manager or lead doctor should call the client directly to discuss the event and what happened. Remember that in the end, you want the client to feel listened to and understood. Even if you feel like the hospital was right in this circumstance, your words and tone of voice are very important. Do not interrupt the client as they explain the situation.
Using the following phrases can be helpful:

  • Thank you for your feedback, I’m very sorry you had this experience.
  • What can we do better next time?
  • What can we do to make you feel better about this situation?

After you discuss the clients visit, ask the client if they would be OK with the hospital posting a public comment thanking them for             speaking with them about the event. We will not post details of the conversation, only that we connected and talked. If the clients agrees,     post this online. This shows other existing or potential clients that even though we had a negative review, we took the time to address it       and right any wrongs.

After your discussion: If the hospital has made an error speak with the staff member involved and discuss with them how to handle the event differently in the future. And, if appropriate, use the incident as a client service or patient care learning tool at your next staff meeting. Encourage other clients to write reviews about their positive experiences. This will move negative reviews down on the website.

Some things not to do: 

  • Immediately remove the post if it’s on Facebook. If it’s full of profanity, personal attacks or is completely false, then it is OK to hide or delete the review. But if it’s someone venting about a bad experience, we do not recommend removing reviews. This can anger users and turn into an ugly online back and forth.
  • Respond to the review with a spirited defense. It’s best to be short and sweet online. Use every effort to take the conversation offline. Online debates don’t look good, and rarely end well.

We’ve found that this method to responding to online reviews has minimized the damage they can cause and in many cases helped the client feel better about the situation.



Shannon Midford

Director of Marketing

Implementing an Effective Social Media Presence Online

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Written By: Shanon Midford- Community Veterinary Partners: Marketing Manager

In today’s world, if you aren’t actively on social media you could be missing out on a large potential audience. One of the greatest things that social media has done is break down walls between companies and their clients.  In September of this year, Facebook reported an average of 864 million daily active users and Twitter reported 284 million monthly active users. Your clients are on social media and you should be too! Here are some tips for implementing an effective social media presence online.

Creating or Re-Launching Your Page:

If you don’t have a social media page for your hospital you definitely should. Or, if you do but it hasn’t been posted to very often, it’s time to re-launch! Before creating or re-launching your page make sure to assign someone in your hospital to oversee it as well as a backup. A social media page is great way to communicate with clients but you can create a bad experience by having an outdated page or worse, unanswered client questions. I’ve seen many veterinary hospital pages that haven’t been posted to in 6 months to a year. If no one is going to manage the page, the clients won’t want to follow it. Make sure notifications from the page go to both of the page managers and that it is checked twice a day.

Posting To Your Page:

A good idea is to come up with a weekly schedule for posts. Posting should be relevant and of interest to your clients. You don’t want to post too often which can annoy the client causing them to unfollow your page.

A good balance is to post about three times a week and have a variety of post types.

  • Promotions or Events: Post about any specials, promotions or events that are currently going on at the hospital.
  • Holidays and Days of Observance: Highlight a holiday or pet specific day. You can find a list of these here:
  • Client photos: Take photos when your clients come in and if they give permission post them to the page. Clients love seeing their pets or pets they know online.
  • Pets up for adoption: Highlight a pet at a local shelter that is up for adoption to help spread the word and support your local shelters.
  • New improvements at the hospital: If you are improving things at the hospital let you clients know about it! If you have a new ultrasound machine, take a photo of the staff using it on an animal.
  • Local community events: If there is a community event that a local shelter is having let your clients know about it. Doing this will encourage the shelters to highlight events that your hospital is having.

 Let Your Clients Know About Your Pages:

Once your page is up and running it’s time to let your clients know! Email your clients and invite them to like and follow your pages. Most email programs will even allow you to even include a button to your pages so the clients can click through. Also, add a link to your website and even include a sign in your hospital.

 Responding to Comments, Client Messages and Reviews:

As your hospital’s social media presence grows, you will see existing clients as well as potential clients commenting with questions about services and events. You will also receive comments thanking you and your staff for great service. With efficient monitoring of your pages, you can reply to these clients within a few hours (That is why it’s important to check twice a day). Even a simple ‘Like’ on a client’s comment or commenting back with something like “It was great seeing Fluffy today!” makes them feel valued and cared about.

While positive comments are very common, you will sometimes get negative comments or reviews on your page. Read our blog about how to respond to these HERE.

Dr. Karen Felsted: A Belief in Marketing Also Drives Veterinary Visits

As mentioned in the last post, the Bayer study identified a number of attributes that practices which continue to grow during this post-recession economy have in common.  Not entirely surprising is that two of those attributes are marketing related:  the first is a belief by the practice owner that marketing and advertising were critical to the practice’s success and, secondly, that the practice is an active user of social media such as Facebook.  The study also looked at attributes associated with practices who are experiencing declines in visits and found that both of those factors were marketing related:  the veterinarian felt that advertising undermines his/her credibility as a veterinarian and the practice lacks referral arrangements with other pet service providers.

What IS surprising is that 74 percent of veterinarians do not completely agree that marketing and advertising are important tools in running a successful practice today.  Without that commitment, it’s unlikely those practices will be effective in using marketing strategies to attract new clients.

What do you think?  How much time do you spend on marketing and advertising?  What have you found to be most successful?

See all of Dr. Karen Felsted’s blog posts.