Oh No! A Bad Online Review - Can We Get it Removed?

With millions of consumers looking for dental services online, and with more and more information popping up on their screens every time they hit “Search,” your prospective patients are, predictably, looking for shortcuts. The best one out there? Obviously: another patient’s review. Forget your hard-earned degree, your shiny operatories, and nights and weekends spent on continuing education. The important thing is, what did Suzy and Patrick say on Yelp?

Studies show that over 70% of patients believe reviews posted online and use them as major input in their selection of products and services. Now, what an amazing (and free!) opportunity to turn your happy patients into a powerful sales force for your business. You’re changing their lives for the better every day; you’re skipping family events for them; you love them through better and worse – it’s only fair that they tell the world how much you care. But what if somebody does just the opposite and slams you on Google+?

Here’s the bad news.

It’s very hard (and often impossible) to have a bad review removed from major review sites like Google, Yahoo!, Citysearch and Yelp. These companies have built their businesses on their own reputation of being fair and objective, and showcasing the good and the bad of any local business. Would you trust them otherwise when you look for a restaurant this Friday night?

As a guideline, know that you only stand the chance of having a bad review removed if it’s profane, contains advertising or spam, is mistakenly written about the wrong business, or if the person who wrote it has a conflict of interest in providing such negative feedback. If one of the above is applies, you can follow some relatively easy steps for getting the review removed:

  • Google+: navigate to the bad review on your practice’s Google+ page, and click “Flag as Inappropriate.” You will then have to submit your reason for flagging the review, and give Google some time to review the request. Here’s some more information on this process.
  • Yelp: log into Yelp, navigate to the offending review and click on “Flag this review” in the bottom right corner. You will have to put in a reason for your flagging of the review – so provide one that falls into one of the categories as outlined by Yelp’s Content Guidelines.
  • Citysearch: The easiest way to dispute a review seems to be to send an email to ratings@citysearch.com and indicate which review you’re flagging, and how it conflicts with Citysearch Terms of Use.

You get the idea. Most review aggregator sites follow very similar guidelines for removing bad reviews – and our customers report having very little success in getting their requests honored.

But there’s also good news.

A bad online review isn’t the end of the world. Many of the most established, successful brands out there get them and are no worse for it. A bad review, when surrounded by a ton of great ones, can serve to show you’re a real business serving real customers. How you handle it makes all the difference, so here are two strategies that always work:

  • Don’t let a bad review linger unanswered. Log into your business listing at the review site (you may have to claim it first) and publicly acknowledge the complaint. Be honest and direct if you’ve made a mistake, and apologize to the patient if their feedback is legit. Don’t go on offensive, don’t make excuses, just assume the “customer is always right” mentality and explain what you’ve done to make sure the situation doesn’t reoccur. It’s also a good idea to privately reach out to the patient and do whatever you can to make them happy. Patients who complain and feel that their voice has been heard can become patients for life.. and will sometimes amend their initial review or remove it altogether! If the review is inaccurate or flat-out false and you can’t get it removed according to the review site’s policy, then at least politely and firmly respond to it stating that it’s false.
  • Drown out the negative feedback. It’s a known fact that patients who want to vent are much more likely to post an online review than those who are happy with you. For most dental offices we work with, getting an overwhelmingly positive response from patients is simply about leveling that playing field. Ask your patients for a review as you walk them out – or employ a tool like RevenueWell to automatically thank each patient for their visit and ask them for an online review. Before you know it, your negative review will fly off page 1 and get overpowered by positive feedback from patients who love and trust your team.

Most importantly, have a strategy and a process for how your office monitors for and addresses negative feedback. Without one, you’re more likely to be blind sighted by a bad review or react poorly and make matters worse.