Reputation, reputation, reputation By Jonathan Fine. July 6, 2016.
Shockingly, just 38 per cent of online complaints ever receive a response, according to the Dutch survey agency TNS NIPO.
And as 71 per cent of online complaints — by which I mean negative posts about your dental practice anywhere online — are a result of bad customer service, responding well is your last chance to turn critics around.
The success of a response is determined by three things:
- the speed of the response time
- the quality of the solution provided
- how the response is provided — specifically how well you provide the human touch.
In dentistry, the practices getting most online complaints aren’t doing bad dentistry — there is no objective difference between their work and the work of other complaint-free practices, according to Dental Protection. They are getting them because they aren’t communicating well.
And also perhaps because patients are more up for complaining than ever before; according to the Institute of Customer Service there’s been an eight-fold increase in complaints on social media since January 2014.
So what do you do? The best thing you can do is see it quickly and take it offline in a transparent way, with a reply to the effect of, “We are sorry you feel our services didn’t meet your expectations, can we call you to discuss how we might fix this?”
If you’re unlucky a disgruntled patient will call a newspaper and, if they decide the story has legs, you’ll need help immediately. Take a story published by MailOnline on Monday: Woman, 28, wins £35,000 payout after dentists failed to spot gum disease that means she will lose almost half her teeth.
Here, unfortunately, two unconnected practices in different counties made the same misdiagnosis on the same patient, which underlines my earlier point —
practices that get complaints don’t necessarily do bad work, they’re just bad at customer service.
(Surely there was a way forward for both practices here that didn’t include being featured negatively on the world’s largest news website.)
Both practices settled without accepting liability and one of them was taken over by the Oasis chain in the meantime, prompting it to make this statement, quoted in the story: “As a matter of course the Oasis Clinical Team undertakes stringent quality reviews of each practice we acquire, which contributes towards our 100 per cent compliance record with the Care Quality Commission. We provide regular and ongoing clinical training for all of our dentists across the UK to ensure these high standards are maintained.”
Not bad but, if you’re an independent practice, statements like this can’t be put out off the cuff according to the whims of your practice manager. There needs to be a protocol in the file so no mistakes are made. Damage limitation is more about not making a bad situation worse than anything else — not the same thing as your complaints procedure.
If you’d like to put a reputation protection plan in place for your practice you need three things:
- real-time notification of negative online comments (so you can see them immediately)
- action (a swift reply)
- monitoring of the reply’s effect (on most occasions the negative comments will end there)
In the event that negative comments go viral, a crisis PR campaign needs to be activated.
If you’d like a protocol for your practice, get in touch and I’ll talk you through Fine Company’s reputation protection service.
“There’s been an 8-fold increase in complaints on social media since Jan 2014”
Jonathan Fine, MD