• Managing Negative Online Reviews

    The dreaded Google Review notification.

    Either you click on the notification to get an increase in dopamine levels or a bludgeoning stab to the heart – goes both ways, plain and simple.

    We care about what we do, so reading a negative online review from a patient can make it seem like our world has come crashing down. The only word I can think of is ‘disappointment’, and on top of it all, we have to handle the situation and follow up.

    I know it’s hard to do, but I do try to see a positive in every negative review.

    Can we learn from negative reviews? Can we gain insight into what might need fixing within the clinic? Or can we just sit back and acknowledge that the reviewer is simply a patient who wants to do damage to your review streak?

    Here are some tips on how to deal with negative online reviews, no matter the platform.



    The words a patient leaves in a review may at first seem harmless, and it can be easy to ignore and move on, but each review – both negative and positive – can have an impact on your clinic.

    Acknowledging each review means you have nothing to hide, because despite your best efforts, not every person you encounter at your practice will be left happy.

    Put frankly, one of the worst things you can do is not respond because no matter how negative the feedback is, it’s important to engage. After doing a bit of digging around the internet myself, I found information that led to some interesting statistics – between 70-80% of ‘customers’ changed their opinions after a business replied to feedback!

    So how can we respond that doesn’t come off aggressive, passive-aggressive or demeaning?

    • Don’t respond immediately, but do respond in a timely manner (within a couple days) to ensure you really take the time to look at things from the patient’s perspective and garner a cool-headed, professional reply.
    • Keep it short and to the point.
    • Thank the patient for visiting your clinic.
    • Apologise for the experience they had and empathise with them.
    • A good business, or clinic in our case, will want to try to make things right. Ask the reviewer to contact you directly so you can help make things right. Nothing else is needed.
    • As a bonus, you’ve just impressed any potential future patients who will be reading through your online reviews.
    • Once you’ve taken the conversation offline and they do get in touch with you, tell them you want to hear more about their experience to make things right.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask for a new review or to update their initial feedback.


    I’ve made some really terrible cringe faces while reading through other company and business replies to negative reviews…and I mean, super cringe worthy! So here’s what not to do when responding (resources from Avant)!

    • Do not breach patient privacy and confidentiality (need I say more?).
    • Do not get defensive.
    • Do not provide a long winded excuse or reasoning behind the clinic’s actions or practices (in other words, don’t justify any actions regardless of whether or not the patient is right).
    • Do not respond more than once. Essentially, this means don’t get into a back and forth argument – it’s not productive and reflects poorly on you.


    It’s hard not to take a negative review to heart, it really is. Especially when you might have a gut feeling that the review could have been from a troll or someone just having a bad day.

    Mentally, you need to try and get yourself back on the horse. Lower than 5 stars does not make your practice the worst one! Far from it, and you know it! Remind yourself, and your staff, that they are the face of the clinic and should be proud of all the work they do.

    And if you find a need to, update your complaints policy as well as any patient feedback forms within the practice. This can make you feel like you’re making even further headway when it comes to the process of patient feedback.

    Remember, if you really feel you need to, there’s no harm in seeking legal advice or going to your professional indemnity expert for advice when it comes to responding to a negative review.

    On a personal level, I’ve found that Google can take up to 6 months to respond to a reported review! It’s insane! So in the meantime, you’ll have to deal with any and all responses. I’ve provided a couple more resources for you when it comes to dealing with negative reviews:

    Let me know if you’ve had to deal with any negative online reviews, how you handled them and what the outcome was. Sharing amongst one another what we’ve learnt can really help the next person who might have to deal with the same thing!