Rules of engagement
Here are the strategies Werber employs and recommends for other veterinarians who get nasty reviews.
1. Respond publicly. If the negative review was posted online, post your response online as well. "If someone's mad at you, you can call and apologize,
but what does that do for the thousands who already read the smear campaign?" Werber says. "If I'm going to be a nice guy,
I want everyone to know I'm a nice guy."
As in marketing or political campaigning, it's all about controlling the message. "It's the art of knowing how to get readers
to be on your side," Werber says. "If there are two sides to every story, let them know yours."
Sincerity goes a long way in this effort, Werber says. "If you're hurt, write back," he says. "Say, 'I do what I do for the
health of animals. I was truly hurt and offended by what you said.' The other people reading that are going to love it. You'll
get clients just from that response."
2. Share reviews with the team. Werber suggests going through reviews in a staff meeting. Even if a client's post is ludicrous, the team will benefit from
knowing the perception is out there. And if there's even a bit of truth to the criticism, learning from it may improve client
"People don't write these things for no reason," Werber says. "Obviously something went astray. There was a certain expectation
that wasn't met. Might they have a little point there? I think so."
3. Craft effective responses. Werber advises being both specific and apologetic in your online responses. "It lets the readers know that you've done everything
in your power as a gentleman, or a lady, to remedy the situation and that you feel terrible it happened," he says.
Include details such as follow-up calls you made to the client: "As I explained in a message on your phone ... " These details
can often deflate the critic's argument by showing other readers that you're thorough and dedicated to strict protocol.
4. Learn how to resolve conflict. "Use the same technique you would with a client in the exam room," Werber says. "You're just resolving it in front of all
the readers." Your response can be an opportunity to explain something you didn't get across during the office visit.
5. Don't let your ego win out. "It's business," Werber says. "The customer is always right—even if they're wrong. You have to say you're sorry this happened."
You don't, however, have to take abuse. "If they say something really bad that's not true and you have proof, you can contact
the website and have it pulled," he says. "You can threaten legal action."
Still, he says, you can never be too proud to apologize. "No matter how good you are, not everybody is going to love you.
It's tough, but get used to it," he says.