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How to Manage Negative Online Reviews

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  • Written By: Admin

The veterinary industry is a very passionate one and pet owners consider their furry friends part of the family. Sometimes experiences during visits can sometimes lead to emotional, not always positive online reviews. No business is immune to getting negative or disgruntled online reviews from time to time and veterinary hospitals are no exception. Defending your hospital online is a natural response but did you know that this can create more damage than the initial review itself? At Community Veterinary Partners we work with each hospital team to get to the bottom of the review and discuss with the client directly.

Here’s how we respond when our animal hospitals receive a bad online review:

A bad review is received: When a client writes a negative review online it will usually explain where the visit turned negative for them. Some examples we’ve encountered are; the front desk team being rude/short with the client, anger at being charged for many tests that a doctor suggested, a tech not bringing a client into the exam room quickly. The practice manager should identify the appropriate team member involved and begin researching what exactly happened.

A puppy and a laptopPost a public comment: Either the practice manager or social media manager in your hospital should post a public comment stating that the hospital is sorry about their experience and will reach out privately to discuss in further detail. Keep this short and sweet and avoid getting into the details of the event. The last thing you want is to argue with the client online where potential new clients can read it.

Post a private message to the user: The practice manager or social media manager should now attempt to contact the user directly, sending the same message as in the public comment. Refrain from any conversation about the actual event until you talk directly via phone or in person.

Research the event: Find out what actually happened during the visit.

  • Look through records to see who the client is and what occurred on his or her visit.
  • Speak to staff members involved
  • Decide on best person to reach out to the client directly via phone. (Usually a partner doctor if the issue was medical or practice manager if the experience was operational in nature)

Reach out to the client directly: Once the message is posted, the practice manager or lead doctor should call the client directly to discuss the event and what happened. Remember that in the end, you want the client to feel listened to and understood. Even if you feel like the hospital was right in this circumstance, your words and tone of voice are very important. Do not interrupt the client as they explain the situation.

Using the following phrases can be helpful:

  • Thank you for your feedback, I’m very sorry you had this experience.
  • What can we do better next time?
  • What can we do to make you feel better about this situation?

After you discuss the clients visit, ask the client if they would be OK with the hospital posting a public comment thanking them for speaking with them about the event. We will not post details of the conversation, only that we connected and talked. If the clients agrees, post this online. This shows other existing or potential clients that even though we had a negative review, we took the time to address it and right any wrongs.

After your discussion: If the hospital has made an error speak with the staff member involved and discuss with them how to handle the event differently in the future. And, if appropriate, use the incident as a client service or patient care learning tool at your next staff meeting. Encourage other clients to write reviews about their positive experiences. This will move negative reviews down on the website.

Some things not to do:

  • Immediately remove the post if it’s on Facebook. If it’s full of profanity, personal attacks or is completely false, then it is OK to hide or delete the review. But if it’s someone venting about a bad experience, we do not recommend removing reviews. This can anger users and turn into an ugly online back and forth.
  • Respond to the review with a spirited defense. It’s best to be short and sweet online. Use every effort to take the conversation offline. Online debates don’t look good, and rarely end well.

We’ve found that this method to responding to online reviews has minimized the damage they can cause and in many cases helped the client feel better about the situation.


Shannon Midford
Director of Marketing