Dear Second Opinion,
I work in a general practice that also provides limited urgent care services. A new client recently mentioned a negative review of the clinic on Yelp. The review was fairly mild, but it sent me down a rabbit hole of reviews on various online platforms and social media sites. Several comments mentioned individual doctors, including myself, by name. Some reviews were positive; however, the negative ones (whether valid or not) were upsetting.
We are a service industry, and thus subjected to online criticism and reviews, but my concerns are how to monitor and manage my online reputation across the internet’s endless platforms as well as how to deal with the ever-present online disinhibition effect.
Our social footprint precedes us, not only as a clinic but also as individual doctors. It feels like a lot is at stake when your reputation is online for all to see, and the consequences of a bad reputation can not only hurt your business but affect your mental health.
—Rallying behind our reputation
Dear Rallying Behind Our Reputation,
Navigating the terrain of online reputations (personally and on behalf of a business) is indeed a challenge for many veterinary professionals. The shift toward digital consultation (eg, consulting Dr. Google, sifting through online reviews) has become a staple in consumer behavior.
Focus on Feedback
It’s impossible to control every narrative about you or your practice. Instead, focus on what you can manage. Establish a proactive approach to online reviews by encouraging satisfied clients to share positive experiences, and respond professionally to both positive and negative reviews to show that you value feedback and are committed to excellence in care.
Assess Negative Reviews
Take a moment to assess negative reviews objectively. Not every review requires a response. There are many reviews that are not important to the clients we wish to do business with. If there’s a kernel of truth, use it as an opportunity for improvement. When appropriate, respond with empathy and a commitment. This approach may turn a critic into a champion.
Understand the Online Disinhibition Effect
Anonymity can embolden individuals to say things they might not in person. Maintain professionalism in your responses, and don’t take anonymous criticisms personally.
Implement tools (eg, Google Alerts) that help monitor the internet for mentions of your name and practice. Enable notifications so looking for reviews and mentions doesn’t consume your daily routine. Make sure the practice has claimed its Google Business, Yelp, and Nextdoor profiles and populated them with accurate information, messaging, and photos that represent the practice.
Take Care of Yourself
Protect your mental health by setting boundaries. It may be worth discussing concerns with colleagues or seeking professional support. After all, taking care of yourself is essential to taking care of others, both in practice and online.
Your online reputation is just one facet of your professional identity. Continue to provide compassionate, competent care—that’s what counts most. Your in-person interactions will always carry more weight than an online comment.
Caitlin DeWilde, DVM