Turn Patient Dissatisfaction Into Trust and Assurance

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Annoyed woman holding a smart phone looking at camera with thumbs down in the streetTurning Dissatisfaction Into Trust & Assurance

Last week we unpacked the unique opportunity of strengthening the patient-provider relationship by monitoring feedback consistently and responding quickly. In his blog, “Service Recovery: Turn Unhappy Customers Into Loyal Fans,” author Harsh Vardhan writes, “Research over the years has shown that customers who have had a service failure resolved tend to be significantly more loyal than ones who have never faced a failure. We call it the service recovery paradox.” He unpacks it further for his readers: “The company displays empathy for the customer by going an extra mile to satisfy them. They display a genuine desire to solve their problem. The customer begins to feel a sense of trust. They know that if something goes wrong, it will be fixed — the biggest assurance every customer needs.” (1) The first step in implementing an effective service recovery strategy is to choose to become aware of what your patients are saying, and secondly – to respond promptly. You shouldn’t shy away from negative feedback out of fear. Negative reviews are inevitable, and your lack of response to them can often communicate a lack of care and concern. Instead, welcome negative reviews as opportunities that, with the right tools in hand, could lead to improved patient satisfaction and loyalty.

Two funny friends sharing a smart phone watching media content on line sitting in a coffee shopGood News

More often than not, a dissatisfied patient just wants to be heard. “In many instances, a patient who’s had a disappointing experience just wants to be heard. This is a basic tenet of customer service. Often, acknowledging the issue or complaint can be just what that patient needs to feel better.” (2) Furthermore, although negative feedback is inevitable, it’s not the norm. A recent patient perspective study found that “two of three patients who’ve posted an online review said they only had positive things to say about their healthcare providers. So, if you request feedback from your patients — a necessity for practice growth — you can count on the majority sharing good experiences.” (2) Don’t let fear of potential negative reviews prevent you from asking your patients for their feedback or choosing to turn a blind eye to your online reputation. Let’s unpack how to appropriately respond to negative online reviews in a way that leads to patient satisfaction and retention.

How to Handle a Bad Google Review

Kevin Fouche provides some great tips for equipping businesses how to appropriately respond to negative reviews in his blog, “How to Handle A Bad Google Review.” While he writes to businesses of all types, for the sake of today’s Thinking Thursday TIPs, I’ll summarize his suggestions in the context of a healthcare facility.

  1. Act quickly.
    Fouche encourages responding to a disgruntled customer within twenty-four hours. However, do not do so hastily or out of emotion. First, consider the following steps.
  2. Take stock of the situation.
    Research your patient.

    • When was his/her visit?
    • Which provider did he/she see?
    • Is he/she a first-time or returning patient?
    • Listen to any available phone conversations he/she may have had with the staff.
    • Read any corresponding emails.
  3. Respond promptly.
    • Keep your response short and to the point.
    • Address the issue.
    • Take ownership of the problem.
    • Apologize – even if it is not your fault.
    • State how you intend to fix the issue.
    • Follow through.
  4. Correct the situation by addressing the customer’s concerns.
    Bad reviews that have been properly addressed reassure prospective patients that in the event something does go array, your healthcare facility will prioritize their wellbeing.
  5. Thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention and see it through.
    Always thank the patient for their feedback and the chance to make things right.

A response following these guidelines will effectively intercept the dissatisfied patient and prohibit any greater fallout or repercussions. Your response demonstrates connectivity with your patients and a concern for their wellbeing, which will go a very long way with prospective patients when researching your healthcare facility.

Public or Private?

A public response to a negative review is very effective in reassuring a dissatisfied patient, as well as creating authenticity and credibility with prospective patients. However, it’s crucial to ensure your response is HIPAA-compliant. Windy Watt explains this well in her blog, “How to Respond to a Negative Online Patient Review.” She provides her readers with specific verbiage so as to protect patient confidentiality. She writes, “Even a response as sincere as, ‘I’m sorry you had a bad experience’ indicates that the patient did interact with you, and this violates HIPAA. A more appropriate response would be: ‘Our office takes customer service very seriously. We are always open to discussion on how we can do things better’… You could add: ‘To protect patient privacy, we prefer to handle any issues offline. Please contact our office if you would like to discuss this matter further.’” (4)

young asian business man showing thumb up while sitting in a cafe and working with laptop.Well Worth It

In today’s consumer-driven world, your patients’ feedback is the key to success. Take intentional measures to create the online reputation you desire for your healthcare facility. Appropriately responding to negative feedback can go a long way in your service recovery strategy. Watt’s closing statement summarizes it well, “It takes vigilance to monitor and manage your online reputation. However, the result is well worth it. When negative reviews are handled appropriately, the outcome is that potential patients see that you are listening and straightforward in responding.” (4)

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Thank you!

Jerry L. Stone
MedicalGPS, LLC


  1. https://hiverhq.com/blog/service-recovery
  2. https://www.patientpop.com/blog/online-reputation-reviews/the-risks-and-potential-rewards-of-negative-patient-reviews/
  3. https://blog.pixelfish.com.au/how-to-handle-a-bad-google-review
  4. https://www.goodrx.com/blog/responding-to-negative-patient-reviews/

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