What to do when your clients complain online

Experts offer solutions to negative online reviews, reputation smears, strategies for rebuttal
source-image
Jan 01, 2010

National Report — No matter how effective, careful or sensitive a veterinarian tries to be, somebody is going to complain.


The age of transparency: The Web offers pet owners many more avenues to praise and criticize your reputation online. How you handle negative online reviews can say just as much about your practice culture. Respond to complaints quickly, and invite your best clients to post positive ratings.
People complain about price, cleanliness, the receptionist or the staff. They might say the doctor flirted with their spouse. They might complain that the doctor didn't take enough time with the patient or that the doctor never saw the client. They might even blame the doctor for their pet's death.

And since it is so easy to share complaints online, they might just tell the world.

But that doesn't mean a veterinarian has to live with such reputation smears.

You can repair the damage by responding privately, quickly and with respect, experts say. How you respond to a complaint says a lot about you and your bedside manner.


Table 1 A selection of Web sites that rate veterinarians
First, though, you need to know what's out there about you and your practice, says Jason Merrihew, communications coordinator for the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). The easiest way to do that is to set up a Google Alert ( http://www.google.com/alerts), a regular automatic search that lets you know when certain words pop up on the Web.

Merrihew recommends you set the alert to search for your practice name, the word "pets" and the city where your practice operates.

"And of course ... assign monitoring of alerts to a specific person so it doesn't fall through the cracks," Merrihew says.