How to handle negative reviews online

Having an online presence is essential for any business – Joanne Phoenix suggests the best ways to deal with negative reviews

07 June, 2023 / indepth

Social media accounts and websites have become the shop windows of many businesses, including dentists. Whether you’re trying to attract patients or encourage people to come to work with you, your online presence can play a big part in forming opinions about your practice.

One way to reinforce any positive feelings people get from viewing your digital channels is to include some ‘social proof’ in the form of online reviews.  Figures published on the website Invesp ( show that 90 per cent of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business and 88 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. As you can see, reviews carry weight as we are as likely to be influenced by a positive review from a stranger as we are to take the word of friends and family.

So, positive reviews can influence potential customers (patients or employees) as they increase trust in your business. Working on the premise you can’t please all of the people all of the time, it’s likely that you will receive a negative review at some point. So, how to handle it?

Investigate the circumstances of the review

Before you can address a negative review, you need to find out what has happened to prompt the reviewer to leave a negative review. Depending on the details of the review, you may need to speak to your team members to determine whether the complaint is legitimate or not. Once you have all the information, you can offer an informed response to address the specifics of the complaint.

Give a public response

Tempting as it might be, ignoring an online complaint won’t make it go away and could give the impression that you don’t care what your patients think of your practice. Whilst it’s important not to give it any more airtime than it deserves, it’s important that the reviewer, and anyone else who views it, see that you take complaints seriously and sincerely want to resolve any issues people might have.

Most review sites offer a facility for you to reply, so make use of this and make a public response. It’s good policy also to thank anyone who has left a positive review too.

Attempt to diffuse any negativity

Review sites can often be the first place that disgruntled customers turn to after a bad experience. No practice is perfect, and everyone will have days when things don’t go as well as they should. So, once you have investigated the circumstances and if you find that the patient’s complaint is legitimate, it’s a good idea to apologise.

“We try hard to make sure our patients have a great experience. That hasn’t happened on this occasion and we’re sorry,” can go a long way towards mending fences with your complainant. It also demonstrates to others who may see it that you are open and honest. Remember, handling a problem complaint well is likely to increase a customer’s confidence in your business.

It’s OK to stand up for your business

It will happen on occasion that a negative review is unfair or unjustified. If you believe this to be the case, then you are within your rights to point this out and defend yourself. However, the way in which you do this should be worded carefully.

No matter how frustrated you may feel at being on the other end of unwarranted criticism your response needs to be polite, professional and above all, honest.

Take things offline if necessary

If, after your initial reply the reviewer makes a further negative response, do not continue to try to handle the issue online. Rather ask the reviewer to contact you via email or telephone so you can discuss things further.

Continuing the discussion on an open forum is not advisable and is not something customers need to be privy to. A simple: “Thank you for your response – if you could please email the full details to us at/ call us on …. we will investigate and respond accordingly,” should put an end to the exchange. It goes without saying that you should deal with things as soon as the reviewer makes contact.

So, reviews are a great way of promoting your business. However, whether they’re positive or negative, it’s important to monitor them and respond to them in a timely manner.

About Joanne

Joanne Phoenix is a Regional Support Manager with Practice Plan. Practice Plan is the UK’s leading provider of practice-branded patient membership plans. We are dedicated to building lasting partnerships with our members, supporting them to become more profitable and sustainable businesses. Joanne has more than 25 years’ experience of the dental industry with 15 of these working at Henry Shein helping dentists to maximise their business. As well as her experience of the dental industry Joanne is able to support practices, using the skills, she has gained studying for her International Coaching Federation certified coaching diploma. To find out more visit or call 01691 684165.

Categories: Magazine

Comments are closed here.

Scottish Dental magazine