Becoming a Five-star Brand
What are people saying about your practice?
I don’t know about you, but whenever I buy something online, the first thing I do is look at what others are saying about it. Amazon.com pioneered this social feature years ago, and now, reading user reviews and appraising others’ experiences has become a normal part of our pre-purchase decision-making.
Just last week, before going to a new restaurant in town, I checked out the Yelp! application on my iPhone to read what others were saying about it. A common theme was excellent food, but slow service. My wife and I had a similar experience, but at least we went prepared.
What are your patients saying about you? Are they giving your practice five stars?
According to Marketing Health, in study after study, it's apparent that information “from others like me” consistently rates as highly trustworthy. This has always been the case (which is why word of mouth is such a powerful marketing tool), but now the universe from which to find these people is global instead of local, driven by the Internet. Online communities like iGuard.org and PatientsLikeMe.com are springing up and allowing patients to compare their experiences directly. Even WebMD has taken a page out of the Amazon.com book, integrating consumer reviews of treatments into the site.
But smart practitioners really want to know what their patients think about their care and how they’re performing in the real world. Feedback—even negative comments—can help you create a better reality and address any potential shortcomings.
Patients generally aren’t out to hurt your brand with consumer reviews, but to help others by sharing their experiences—both positive and negative. Information from dentists, hygienists, pharmacists, patient brochures, advertising, and word-of-mouth, is now compared with user reviews and opinions available online to get a “complete” picture of your practice.
This trend is not going away because the younger a person is, the more likely he or she is to use the Internet and social media to find health-related information.
So here’s the bottom line: While you can't control what people are saying about your practice online, you can listen, understand the conversation, and be proactive. It's more important than ever that health care providers are aware of what's being said about them in the social space.