As a vet, you’ve probably experienced first hand how important it is to keep your reputation high. Often operating in smaller towns or neighbourhoods, people with pets will know about your practice. After all, it’s a small community of pet owners – and word of mouth travels fasts in these circles. Opinions are formed fast and will be spread even faster, so you better make it a good one.
Back in those good ol’ days, offering excellent customer service – next to a quick chat about the weather and an extra treat for the pet – could do the trick. People left your practice happy and would be likely to tell the neighbour next door who needs to get her dog vaccinated too. But then the world shifted to online, and all of the sudden there were not only many more ways to get your practice found (yeey!), but there was also a whole new platform to leave your opinion.
The importance of online reviews
Studies show that 68% of customers form an opinion of a business by reading one to six online reviews, and they will even determine if the business is worth their trust based on merely 10 online reviews.
These numbers clearly show the importance of the so-called ‘digital word-of-mouth’, the online reviews. And these good online reviews will help you keep the reputation of your practice high – bringing in new customers on a regular basis.
In particular, for businesses that involve care and a personal and emotional topic such as your pet’s health, reviews are essential. People find it reassuring to read other people’s experience to see if it’s worth their time and money to pay a visit to your clinic or practice.
Building an online reputation with online reviews takes time. Some people will spontaneously leave a review – but unfortunately, not everyone will. The motivation for leaving an online review will most likely be either an extremely satisfying experience, that they want to give you credit for, or an extremely bad want, where they want to share their frustrations. This means that building your online reputation starts – just as your offline one – with providing excellent (customer) service.
But don’t worry. Luckily, 68% of people asked to leave a review will do so. This means we can start building on our online reputation by simply asking our customers to leave a review.
A good way to remind people to leave a review is to work with an automated ‘thank you’ email that you send after their visit to the practice. This creates a two-way conversation, where you thank them for coming and measure their satisfaction by adding a small survey or social links to Yelp, Facebook or Google to leave a review.
Dealing with bad reviews
We already touched on it briefly, but with the possibility of leaving online reviews about your practice, the chance is high that there will be a negative review popping up at some point. This doesn’t necessarily mean you offered bad service – but there are always people that will complain, be it for personal reasons or not.
As a vet practice, it’s also important to address these bad reviews. Nothing is worse for your online reputation than having multiple bad reviews online that nobody responded too. This means that, first of all, it’s important to keep track and manage your incoming reviews. Make sure that you receive a notification as soon as somebody leaves you a review, so you can check if it’s a good or a bad one. Try to address the bad ones as soon as possible – to show that you care and you communicate with your clients online.
Secondly, it’s important to keep in mind that the customer’s king. This might sound cliche, but online reviews can be so mean and unjustified sometimes – with people being braver hidden behind the anonymity of their keyboards – that you just want to set things straight by defending yourself. Keep in mind that these reviews will be visible for all customers and your rant below it will probably not do your reputation any good.
Try to approach a bad review with your customers in mind. Why is it that they’re satisfied? Try to explain from your own perspective what would have happened, and make a true effort to make it right. If the conversation would be too specific, let them know you will move the conversation to a private conversation – where you can address the issues in a more elaborate way. Leaving a thoughtful and respectful comment will not only help to solve the problem, but will also show others that you provide excellent customer care and you value the feedback they offer.
Finally, make sure to give some credit to the good ones too! People that leave good reviews will like your token of appreciation – be it as simple as an emoji or a like!
Show your practice online
Another advantage of online reviews is that you can build up your profile on those online review sites. Even though you probably have a beautifully designed website, online reviews often show high up in the search results and will drive traffic to the platform where the reviews are left.
This means you should also ensure your profile on platforms such as Yelp or Google is representative of your business. This means uploading pictures, ensuring the contact details and opening hours are correct, and adding information on your staff or types of accommodation you have available.
Your business description gives you the opportunity to tell the story about your clinic. Use these pieces of free online real estate, and tell your future customers why they should choose you. Together with some strong photos and the online reviews, people will get a good impression of your practice – and they’ll know what to expect.
Show the world your authority
Except for the powerful opinion of others, it’s also important to show the world that you’re a professional and experienced practice. An ideal platform for this is social media, where you can share success stories of your patients. Facebook or Instagram are also perfect for introducing your staff members and their experience, or even for simply sharing industry relevant news.
Since everyone is present on social media these days, it will benefit the reputation of your practice to have a strong Facebook page as well. The behind-the-scene insights they will gather from these pages will create a sense of trust, making it more likely they will come (back) to you in the future.