You want your patients writing positive reviews, you’ve exceeded your their expectations. You’ve provided the highest quality care and experience for them and their family most likely. Your practice and team has made them feel special, cared for, and listened to.
You and your team is always going above and beyond serving their healthcare needs.
But when you talk to them, they’re full of praise but they still won’t take the few minutes to leave a review of your practice. So why won’t they do it? Why won’t they write a review (positive or negative) for your business?
Barriers That Keep Patients From Writing Positive Reviews
Happy patients are typically open to the idea of writing a review. Unhappy patients, on the other hand, are more motivated to write a negative review.
But both types of patients are in the minority.
The vast majority of patients don’t leave reviews. They don’t offer feedback. There’s a wide variety of reasons, but it really comes down to a few common barriers.
Aside from expectations, these barriers determine whether you’ll be able to get a patient to write a review.
So, how do you get more patients to write reviews?
You eliminate the barriers.
But first, you have to identify them.
Barrier #1: Happy Patients Are Secretly Unhappy
Most patients are open with their doctors and other healthcare professionals when it comes to their health. Not so much when they are thinking about the care and services that they receive. That is why many “happy” patients are secretly unhappy. Unfortunately, many of these patients are unwilling to share the reasons behind their unhappiness so you and team can solve these issues.
Plain and simple, most patients won’t bother to tell you they’re unhappy.
Let’s look at a few stats, mined by Help Scout.
- For every customer/patient who bothers to complain, 26 other customers/patients remain silent. Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs
- A typical business hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers. Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner
- Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor, and they’ll do business with you again 70% of the time. Source: Lee Resources
- 91% of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again. Source: Lee Resources
Here’s the real reason patients won’t tell their doctor or provider the truth when they have a complaint. We’re socialized to be “nice.” Telling the truth often comes with unpleasant consequences.
And when it doesn’t?
Delivering bad news or constructive criticism feels yucky, especially when patients feel it’s petty, tiny or insignificant. Delivering good news can create headaches, especially when the recipient of said news takes it pretty hard or reacts negatively.
For some patients, it’s just not worth it.
These patients feel it’s simply better to keep their thoughts, feedback and opinions to themselves.
So, how do you fix this?
Create an environment of safety. On the surface, that sounds easy but it can be difficult to apply. Here are a few strategies you can test in your business.
- Welcome horrible reviews. When patients write a negative review, it’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s a chance for you to show prospective patients you’re a safe practice to use for their healthcare needs. When something goes wrong, patients know you’ll take good care of them. Thank patients for their unpleasant review, act on their feedback, then show what you’ve done.
- Ask patients for good, bad, and ugly feedback. Reassure patients, letting them know it’s safe for them to hold you and your team accountable. Then, keep your word. New patients will test you; they’ll attempt to verify your words. Handle it well and you’ve earned their trust (and a review). Mess things up and they’ll quietly slip away.
- Improve staff EQ. Give your team the incentives they need to eliminate dysfunctional behavior. Use training, resources, and tools to eliminate the big four relationship killers – condescension, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Be kind, be helpful or your chance at a review will be gone.
- Promote clarity over persuasion. Anticipate and defuse concerns, objections, risks, and fears ahead of time. Create policies that ensure patients feel safe and treated well.
Patients write positive reviews for two reasons:
- Altruism. These patients are looking out for other patients customers. If they’re happy, these patients spread the good news organically. Here’s the great part about working with these patients. If you align your practice or office with their altruism, they’ll be more than willing to share positive reviews on your behalf. Here’s the bad news. If there’s a hint or whiff of what they perceive as selfishness, you’ve lost them.
- Helping your practice. These customers want to reciprocate; they want to write positive reviews for you and your practice or office. If they’ve had an exceptional experience with your practice and team, one that exceeded their expectations, they’re far more likely to do so. The “helping your practice” category is a broad one. This category includes patients that you’ve gone above and beyond for, those jumping on the positive reviews bandwagon and customer loyalists who are willing to jump through hoops for you.
Your patients are willing to write a positive online review if you’re willing to ask for it. That’s the problem here; 67% of patients have been asked for reviews. It’s certainly an improvement over previous years, but it’s still not where it should be.
Here’s why that matters.
76% of consumers leave reviews when asked, up from 70% in 2018. Consumers understand the value of a positive review, and they’re willing to write them.
Barrier #2: Patients don’t remember what you did
This is why they can’t write a review on your behalf. Do a great job and patients are far more likely to forget. Do a bad job and customers never forget.
It’s not fair but it is consistent.
As it turns out, there’s an explanation for this. An experiment tested memory and approach‐avoidance ratings for television news images that induce anger, fear, and disgust. Here’s what researchers found.
“Images that induce anger were found to be the most memorable on a latency‐to‐response measure, followed by images that induce fear, and images that induce disgust.”
This is confirmed in several other studies. Negative information is, unfortunately, more memorable. This happens because of our negative bias.
We all have one.
As people, we’re on an obsessive hunt for problems. For disasters, fears, and frustrations. Research shows we’re far more attuned to the negative events in our lives than we are to the positive.
Our negative bias keeps us safe.
It’s an important survival mechanism we depend on from the time we’re born.
- Problems create stress and anxiety
- Solutions (you) relieve stress and anxiety
When you give patients the answers, care, and treatment that they so desperately need, you give them relief. That’s a good thing (obviously) but it’s also a bad thing.
Because relief induces forgetfulness.
The longer you wait to ask patients for their feedback (or a review), the less likely they are to remember what you actually did for them.
So, how do you fix this?
You ask patients for their feedback or a review before they leave your building or shortly after they’ve left. Here’s why this is so important. If your patients are reminded of care you and your team has given them, they are less likely to share their positive experience. In fact, the better your performance, the more ashamed they’ll feel about forgetting all that you’ve done for them the next day.
Kind of obvious, right?
These feelings of shame motivate your patients to hide. Most don’t want to admit that they took the great care you and your staff gave them for granted. There’s actually a better way. You prime the pump. During a new patient’s initial first visit you and your team tell them you’re going to do a regular check-in to make sure that you are meeting their needs, like this:
Hi [Patient Name]!
Thanks for choosing us to be your [ ] provider. Our team is excited to have you as a patient.
We want to make sure you’re taken care of at the highest level. So, we want to reach out to you regularly or after each visit to see what you need, what we did well, and what we can improve upon.
Would that be okay?
You can use these check-ins to share feedback, concerns, complaints, vent about a problem – they are all important for us to know.
Thank you for choosing our team!
P.S. Prefer to skip these check-ins? No problem! Just let us know.
You’ll obviously want to customize things for your practice, but you catch the drift, right? Then, you save each “check-in” with your patient. If you can, it’s also a great idea to use an automated review management tool like Grade.us to generate review requests.
Save live chats, record phone calls (get permission), save emails.
You dramatically reduce patient churn and gain valuable insights to make them happy. And the best part? Patient reviews are baked right in!
What about your patient’s negative bias?
Wouldn’t this be a major problem if you’re trying to get patients to write positive reviews on your behalf? Not really, no. In fact, your patient’s negative bias can be a powerful tool in the right hands. This negative bias can amplify the effectiveness of your patients reviews, boosting results in the long term.
How can you use that to encourage patients to write positive reviews?
By uncovering your patient’s:
- Inexperience can manifest itself as fear, risk, objections, insecurity, or a general lack of knowledge.
- Past experiences – were patients mistreated, did they have a bad experience with a particular treatment or team member?
- Customer perceptions are shaped by expectations – the fuzzy, implicit, and unrealistic expectations. These expectations must be sculpted and shaped by your team, service, and treatments (i.e. your brand) rather than patients.
Here’s how you do it.
You ask patients questions about each of the above items. You create a series of questions (see Barrier #4) that uncover these ideals naturally. When you ask the right questions, you end up with high-performance reviews that have the following ingredients:
- Desires: Your patient’s wants and needs, the big picture details that keep them up at night.
- Goals: You’re able to identify what patients want from you and your team and why they’re writing a review.
- Fears: These fears appear as barriers, risks, objections, etc.
- Frustrations: The problems that prevented them from achieving the goals or outcomes they wanted.
- Outcomes: The solutions you provided patients, their outstanding experience or the incredible results you and your team were able to help them achieve. It’s the realization of their desires and goals.
These are the kind of reviews that attract, win, and retain wonderful patients.
Barrier #3: It’s Too Hard To Write Or Share A Review
Great success! You have a patient who’s able and willing to share a positive review. They decide to search for your business on Yelp, and they can’t seem to find the right profile.
They spent 15 min writing a review only to lose it.
It’s too time consuming. Or too whatever.
Patients write reviews for a wide variety of reasons. Patients stop caring when it becomes tough to actually write a review – whether that’s on your site or a third party site.
You know what that means. They lose interest, and they abandon their review. And just like that, the opportunity is gone.
Here’s the thing. It’s not just about technical difficulties, it’s also about direction. Patients don’t always know where to write or share their reviews. They need direction from you.
So, how do you fix this?
You make things ridiculously simple. You make it incredibly easy for them to write a review. Then you show them where you’d like their reviews to go, like this:
Hi [Patient Name]!
Your feedback was amazing! Thanks so much for sharing.
Would you be willing to share your feedback and advice with other patients if it only took 30 seconds?
Please let me our team know,
[Your Practice Name]
It’s ridiculously easy for customers to respond. All they have to do is write a “Yes” or “No.”
Okay. They’ve said yes. What do you do?
Thanks so much [Patient Name]!
Here’s what you’d have to do.
- Copy and paste your review below.
- Click this link
- Paste your review, select a rating and click Done
[Patient’s review transcript goes here]
[Your Practice Name]
Grade.us automates this process with the review first layout. Alright… What if they say, “No?”
Hi [Patient Name],
No problem! Thanks for letting me know. I’m curious, what is it about sharing feedback that isn’t working for you?
Thanks for everything,
[Your Practice Name]
You’ll have some patients who ignore you anyway. That’s fine. Focus on the patients who answer. Thank them for their feedback, act on it (if possible), then show them that you’ve taken their advice. If you’re looking for a way to increase customer feedback here are some ingredients you need.
- Autoresponder messages (to send out review requests) via email and text
- Follow-up tools to reach out to non-responders
- A review funnel that directs customers to the review platform of your choice
- Promotion tools that allow you to market your four and five-star reviews effectively
You could do this manually, but it’s not scalable.
What if you don’t want to do the personal follow up? What if you’re looking for a systematic way to attract customer reviews? If you’re looking for a scalable way to attract reviews, you’ll need a review funnel. Semi-automation is key if you’re looking to gain traction quickly.
Creating a review funnel gives you the ability to scale quickly, reminding customers to write a review and share their feedback.
Barrier #4: Patients Don’t Know What To Say
The biggest hidden barrier by far is awareness. Many customers simply don’t know what to say. So, rather than struggling with it, they do nothing.
You can change that.
You can guide customers. Does this mean you’re telling patients what to say and when to say it?
It means you’re focused on asking the right questions. Why do questions matter? And, how on earth will questions get you the amazing reviews you’re looking for?
Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, shared the answer.
“Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. It hits your mind and bounces right off. You have to ask the question – you have to want to know – in order to open up the space for the answer to fit.”
Patients can’t teach you about their experience until you’re ready to learn.
Ask the right questions, and you give patients the fuel they need to create amazing reviews — because reviews flow from feedback.
Ask patients the right question and the barrier – I don’t know what to say – fades away.
Which questions do you ask, and when?
First, start with the basics.
1. What would have prevented you coming to our practice or clinic?
2. What was your first impression of our clinic or practice?
3. What did you like most about our practice or clinic?
4. What are the top three things that you think makes our practice or clinic different than others?
5. Would you recommend us to someone else? Why?
You can add additional questions as needed, provided that you make it easy for your patients.
Make it easy, and barriers come tumbling down.
Aren’t barriers unnecessary?
Believe it or not, barriers are necessary. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Who makes it harder for patients to write positive reviews?
You do if you’re a savvy practice manager or healthcare marketer.
Reviews are like magnets. Prospective patients are drawn to them. That’s a problem if you aren’t meeting your patient’s needs and more importantly, desires. But there are “bad” patients. Here are a few examples:
- Have patients looking at lower costs? Offer great service, and you’ll attract more of their penny-pinching friends.
- Provide lots of “handholding?” You’ll attract more of the same demanding patients.
- Nightmare patient writes you a positive review? You’ll attract more demanding patients that will tax your team and make it more difficult to serve your other patients.
What if removing barriers doesn’t get patients to write a positive review?
It won’t work for everyone.
But you’re not looking for everyone. You’re looking for all-stars, patient evangelists who’ll tell everyone they know about your practice or clinic.
The diamonds in the rough.
Your Patients Are Eager And Willing To Write A Positive Review
You’ve exceeded their expectations by delivering the best care and patient experience they have ever had. You and your team have gone above and beyond for this patient. But when it comes to writing a review for you, they’ll still continue to struggle with following through.
Your patients need guidance.
When you discuss things with them, they’ll be full of praise. When you ask for feedback, they’ll do their best to be nice. But these barriers will keep them from writing a review.
Happy patients want to write a positive review. Remove their barriers. Make it easy for the right patients, and you’ll find their reviews exceed your expectations.