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Extinguish negative veterinary practice reviews
Burned by scathing Internet comments? Posting a response may actually help you gain veterinary clients—if you take the right approach.



How should we handle these negative reviews? One thing's for sure—don't ignore them.

Use them to evaluate. At the very least, use the comments to review your service goals and practices. If you see a pattern, maybe these reviewers have identified a real problem:

  • Are you considerably more expensive than your competition?
  • Are your clients not appreciating the value of your services?
  • Is your wait time too long?
  • Do your receptionists need a refresher course in customer service?
  • Should your estimates be more accurate?
  • Should your technicians spend more time with clients at discharge, making sure they understand medications and post-care instructions?
  • Are clients getting the impression that you don't care?

These are some of the more common comments that pop up in Internet reviews.

Answer the review. The Internet marketing mavens seem to agree that, when possible, you should respond to negative reviews. If you know the reviewer, you could call him or her to resolve the issue at hand. If not, you can answer via the same website. Whether to respond directly to the client or publicly is up to you. In my experience, the complainer isn't going to care what you have to say and isn't looking for resolution. So I recommend going public. It's good for prospective clients to see your side of the situation and, more important, to see how you handle client dissatisfaction. Anyone reading my response to the prescription diet episode may have thought, "Wow, what a nice guy—what more could he do?" I may even win over a new client because I handled the situation well.

Take the high road. When you prepare your response, be positive and respectful. Don't challenge the reviewer in a public forum. If there's a viable explanation, share it. If your office screwed up, apologize. If there's a lesson to be learned, thank the reviewer and learn it.

Let the review stand. Experts don't recommend, at least initially, that you ask reviewers to remove or modify negative reviews. You don't want them to think that your only reason for seeking resolution is to remove the negative comment. The client needs to know that your true motivation is to solve the problem and bring satisfaction. If successful, and your positive relationship is re-established, ask the client to consider writing a new review.

If you feel strongly that the review is a clear misrepresentation or inaccuracy, you can contact the host site and dispute the comment. If you can prove that the information is false, the company may remove the post.

Remember that every business is vulnerable to negative reviews. But when you address complaints head-on in the spirit of delivering satisfaction, you can turn these few lemons into lemonade.

* This article was adapted from Dr. Werber's presentation at the 2011 CVC San Diego, "The New Rules of Marketing."

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Werber owns Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles. Please send your questions or comments to



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