Don't let bad Internet reviews bite - Veterinary Economics
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Don't let bad Internet reviews bite
Are online ratings services your friend or foe? Here's how to make them work for you.

Volume 49, Issue 4

Next steps

So, you've done your research. How should you proceed? Keep these tips in mind as you navigate the online review landscape:

> Don't try to "outpost" comments about perceived bad experiences with made-up positive ones. People will know what you're up to, and it looks unprofessional. I've identified posts from hospital owners or team members who were obviously parading as customers.

> Contact site administrators to let them know false information exists on their site. Maintain a high level of professionalism. Most online administrators are receptive to honest, articulate requests that refute erroneous claims, and they'll often take these posts down.

Look online
> Keep in mind that consumers use online reviews as a way to learn about businesses in their area. Don't overlook this opportunity. Once your practice is listed on these sites, your Web site will get more hits. Each site you're reviewed on will link back to your practice.

> Spend some time responding objectively to unhappy clients and turn them into happy clients whenever possible. It's no different than if a client were to write a letter or complain in person. Once you respond in a sincere manner, he or she will calm down and may even retract the review. Almost without fail, irate reviews come from customers who are incensed because nobody from the business listened or responded to them in the first place. The rant is their last resort. On the other hand, positive comments are a strong indicator of a good relationship between the business and the customer.

> Ask satisfied clients to use the sites. You can say something like, "If you're happy with our service, will you share your experience online at"

Behind the scenes
> If you're overly worried about bad reviews, maybe that's a red flag. If your service is excellent, you shouldn't have much to worry about. I read hundreds of reviews for all types of businesses and they're almost always positive. There are times, though, when the sheer volume of negative responses with the same tone indicates otherwise. In those cases, the business probably needs to heed the comments.

> While there are definitely some unstable clients out there ranting, they usually give themselves away by their tone, rushed typing style, and heat-of-the-moment grammar and spelling mistakes. Most Internet users will be savvy enough to take these comments with a grain of salt. (If they're not, you're probably better off without them.)

Just as you strive to develop a strong reputation through word-of-mouth, use these review sites in the same way. Ask clients to post positive reviews, and join the Internet ratings community so that your practice becomes part of the system. Once you've tamed the beast, you're a lot less likely to get bitten.

Mark Opperman, CVPM
Mark Opperman, CVPM, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, is owner of VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo. Send comments to



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