Ashley Buehnerkemper, director of marketing at VitalSkin Dermatology, shares the essentials of managing your dermatology practice’s online reputation.
This month we are introducing Ms. Ashley Buehnerkemper — director of marketing at VitalSkin Dermatology. With 15 years of experience she is an expert in healthcare and practice management marketing. In this important article, Ms. Buehnerkemper shares the essentials of managing your dermatology practice’s online reputation.
There’s a very good reason we’ve all heard the phrase, “Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising.” It’s because a company’s reputation is defined by how its customers communicate their experience to others. And the credibility that accompanies person-to-person discussion is stronger than any other form of promotion. Which means that managing your reputation is a critically important part of business success.
Naturally, you want your customers to have the best possible experience with your practice, and tell others. Today, that’s complicated by the fact that there are more ways than ever for companies and customers to communicate. But it’s still vitally important to know who’s saying what about your practice, and why.
So let’s look at the essentials of doing just that.
In order to effectively manage your online reputation, you need to know what patients are saying about your practice, your team, and the services you provide. One way to accomplish that is to set automatic e-mail alerts that inform you when certain key words you choose —your company’s name, for instance—are mentioned online. These tools are available on most platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google, and even Yelp. Consider watching not just for reviews, but also for incidental mentions of names of your practice and physicians. To manage all this, many practices today appoint or even hire a team member to manage social media and other online discussion portals. After all, having and keeping an optimal online reputation starts with knowing what patients are saying about their experiences with your practice.
If you don’t already have a presence on key social media sites, do what you can to be easy to find on each of them, and to secure your brand name so it can be part of an internet address. For instance, VitalSkin Dermatology can be found at https://www.facebook.com/vitalskinderm/, https://twitter.com/VitalSkinDerm, and https://www.linkedin.com/company/vitalskinderm/. Be sure that each link maintains consistency in look, feel, imagery, and tone with your overall brand. You’ll likely want to do the same for your practice.
Don’t forget about Google Pages or Yelp, as both are places where your dermatology practice will likely be reviewed. Securing your brand name on those sites allows you to access, manage and respond to mentions and feedback in a timely manner, as well as keeping your online information accurate. You’ll especially want to make sure you control your Google Business page and Yelp Business page for that reason—if someone else has control, you won’t be able to update business hours, contact information, location, and other important details about your business. To get started, read these instructions on how to claim your Google business page.
Since many prospective patients start their search by reviewing a Google business page, Yelp business page, and Facebook page, you’ll want to review each of them for accuracy and completeness. But you should so the same for any other portals that could include online listings for your practice. Make sure your listed business hours are correct, but also pay attention to contact information, business location, and services provided, because any online listing that lists incorrect or partial information can make it harder for prospective patients to get the correct information about your practice—which hurts your practice’s online reputation. Additionally, most listing sites allow you to include pictures of your location or services offered. Give particular consideration to adding professionally-taken pictures of the outside and inside of your practice, and even your physicians and staff. Doing so can give viewers a sense of familiarity and comfort before they even arrive.
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One way you can proactively help manage your dermatology practice’s online reputation is by asking current patients to review your practice online. You can make it a part of your post-appointment follow-up email, or part of regular patient surveys. This helps ensure you stay on top of feedback, and respond promptly if needed.
When doing so, be sure to keep your requests brief and to the point. If your billing person is the final stop for a patient on the way out after an appointment, for instance, he or she can simply say something like “To help us deliver the best possible care, we’d so appreciate it if you could share any feedback you may have with us.” Or “Your feedback is important to us, as we are always looking for ways to improve our services and offerings”. You’ll likely find that just a few short lines at the end of a post-appointment follow-up email can generate tremendous response in creating positive reviews.
As much as we all hope patients will love our care and service, it’s inevitable that not all reviews will be positive. Regardless of how patients review your dermatology practice, though, you should strongly consider responding to 100% of them promptly. You can do this without violating HIPAA or relevant privacy laws, because simple statements can go a long way. Let’s look at some examples:
“Thank you for the feedback. We always commit to providing you the best care possible.”
“Our practice aims to deliver the highest quality of patient care. We love to hear about your positive experiences. Thank you for sharing your feedback with us!”
Similar principles can be used when responding to negative feedback. Your goal when responding to such reviews should be genuine, caring, and non-defensive, acknowledging the patient’s concern and transitioning the conversation to an offline channel:
“We apologize for your recent problem at our office, and want you to know that anything less than the best experience is not acceptable to us. Please contact us at [contact person/information] so that we can better address your concerns.”
While you should respond to 100% of reviews, you’ll want to make sure that you are HIPAA-compliant and respecting patients’ privacy when doing so. This is true even in direct messages through various social media platforms. In situations where a patient has a negative experience, for instance, your best approach is to encourage a phone call so that you can speak directly with them, and work together privately to remedy their experience. This may even help you develop a better relationship with the patient in the future, too. Regardless, it’s simply a good way to manage your reputation.
While reaching out and encouraging dialogue with each individual who expresses a negative experience can help identify and improve problem areas, your positive and helping reaction helps advance your dermatology practice’s online reputation. If you notice recurring problems or consistently unpleasant feedback, the best course of action is to take measures that ensure they don’t continue. This could include making changes internally in your practice, changing processes to prevent similar events from happening again, and taking other actions to reduce the likelihood of similar negative feedback appearing again in the future—all of which demonstrates to patients that you’re sincere about your commitment to excellence, and your reputation.
While you’ll likely need to balance HIPAA and privacy considerations online and in any social media setting, you can still embrace a certain level of transparency and sincerity with your patients. Not only does such openness create brand loyalty, but it often helps you and your team be more relatable to patients. It also creates a patient perception of your dermatology practice as a uniquely ethical, trustworthy, and honest place—which can help make your practice even more appealing to prospective patients.
Incorporating technology into your dermatology practice wherever possible and reasonable definitely helps make these tips and guidelines more manageable. For instance, you may be able to use auto-scheduling programs to regularly send post-visit follow-up emails, which include a feedback form, a request for online reviews, and even links to your social media sites. Similarly, you can use customer experience management platforms such as Sprinklr to act as a dashboard from which to automatically respond to different types of reviews and feedback, view progress in improving your practice’s reputation, and more. Some such platforms can even allow you to update business information in multiple places at once—yet another way that embracing software and automation can help you manage your online reputation more easily and effectively.