Tag Archives: bad reviews

5 surprising things we learned about your patients in 2013

1. Time-related concerns are the #1 complaint in plastic surgery patient reviews

clockMost bad reviews are not complaints about the quality of results, but about the patient experience. Patients most often express sentiment within themes of time, communication, and money. They are frustrated by service and communication failures and their negative reviews focus on these issues.

But in 5-star (highly-satisfied) reviews, patients focus on their positive emotions, i.e., comfort, outcomes and next steps. They are happy and satisfied. They plan to stay in the practice and help it grow.

What to do: If you want to change the tone and content of future reviews, then you need to attack service problems at the source.

2. After restaurants, consumers read reviews of doctors and dentists more than any other category.

Most people read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion of you, and they read less reviews before forming an opinion than they did a year ago. Nielsen recently reported that 68% of consumers trust online review content, and an astonishing 70% take action after reading consumer opinions posted online.

The only type of advertising to inspire more action than online reviews is a recommendation from a friend. Reviews are more powerful all other media including TV, websites, newspaper ads, email marketing, print ads, and billboards.

What to do: You need trustworthy, relevant, recent reviews. A lot of them.

3. Consumers require negative reviews to believe positive reviews

Thumbs-Up-Thumbs-DownPatients who rate their experience as neutral, dissatisfied, or highly dissatisfied represent only 4% of the survey totals for overall satisfaction.

A number of studies have determined that consumers require a small amount of negative feedback in order to confidently believe positive feedback.

What to do: Stop freaking out about negative reviews! (Easier said than done, we know…)

4. Proactive price education = stronger SEO, more leads, better consults, and more cases

Patients who are prepared for the cost are 21% more likely to schedule on the spot, at the end of their consult. Rather than worried about a financial surprise at the end of the consult, they are focused on absorbing your expertise about the procedure.

“Cost” and “Price” are two of the strongest keywords there are! Neglecting to include them on your website is costing you a pretty decent amount of web traffic. Just like in the consultation, a prospective patient visiting your website looks for cost information in order to move forward in their research process. If you answer their question, they can move on to learn about the procedure, look at your beautiful photos, and contact you for a consultation.

What to do: Put general price ranges on your website and share cost information over the phone before the caller asks.

5. Prospective patients who read reviews are ready to buy

A year’s worth of data gathered from 14 plastic surgery practice websites shows these visitors who read reviews at part of a visit convert at least twice as often as those who don’t. (In this case, “convert” simply means they completed a form on a website.)

What to do: If you want more leads, consults, and cases, add reviews to your own website.

The 5 Stages of Embracing Patient Reviews (for Doctors)


You just want them to go away… nobody reads those darn things!


You’re mad at the people who wrote bad reviews and lose some sleep trying to figure out how to get them removed from the Internet. You might have even called your lawyer.


You ask your happy patients to write reviews everywhere. You may even start looking for ways to game the system. (No, you can’t game the system!)


You realize few patients will actually get it done and even then, some websites won’t publish the reviews!


You know reviews help you grow and that some blemishes actually boost your credibility. You just need to figure out how to acquire reviews frequently and without burden to your staff.

A tale of two reputations

You’ve heard this story before… great surgeon, patients love him, staff is wonderful. But a few highly-visible negative reviews and a lack of positive reviews is damaging the practice. The reviews do not represent the truth and cannot help consumers make good decisions.

One tale tells a dark story

On Yelp, the surgeon has just one unhappy and anonymous review. A competitor’s positive review is displayed alongside it in an ad.


Nobody knows where the negative Yelp review was first written, but like a weed it is pervasive and appears on three other much less credible doctor review websites.

On Google Places, another lone anonymous unhappy review has been published.


Consider this scenario…

A patient is referred to this surgeon by a very happy previous patient. She goes online to Google his name. The referral, which is pure gold, is now tarnished by the information found online. She becomes suspicious and the door is opened to doubt. She begins considering other surgeons rather than scheduling a consult.

This referral did not have to be lost if the surgeon takes control of the message.

Matt Cutts (Google’s head of web spam) says that the “answer to bad speech is more speech.” What Mr. Cutts did not tell us was where or how to solve the problem.

Logically, the practice asks happy patients to write more reviews. Yet Google now requires patients to give up their anonymity to share their review – a barrier for cosmetic surgery patients.

Yelp publicly states they don’t want businesses to encourage customers to write reviews. And you’ve probably had patients tell you that their positive review was not posted. This is because Yelp hides reviews from people who aren’t regular Yelp reviewers.

So how does the practice proactively tell the real tale?


At RPR, we decided the solution was to independently survey from the practice’s own database. This approach eliminates negative reviews from non-patients (e.g., angry ex-employees, competitors). Surveying all patients is also why RPR’s average ratings are higher than other sites.

Only actual patients receive the survey or write a review. Reviews are honest, frequent, relevant, and timely and there are a lot of them, not just for surgery but also for consult.

Surgeons benefit when they willingly and openly publish all patient comments without editing. It meets the needs of today’s consumer who requires complete transparency to trust reviews.

It’s easier to fix a scar than fix your reputation

It’s always painful to learn we’ve disappointed someone, be they our patient, co-worker or spouse. We can learn a lot from our unhappy patients if we’ll only listen.

  1. There’s no need to be defensive about complaints. While it may be uncomfortable to deal with difficult situations, there is often a kernel of truth in the patient’s comment.
  2. You can make your practice better by listening. You can’t be present for each patient encounter. Use patient feedback to tweak your practice – where it matters most.
  3. You can grow your practice by responding to patient concerns. Customers who experience successful resolution of their problems are more likely to buy again and to refer.

Unhappy patients are a very small part of our patient experience. Only 3% of our patients ultimately review their experience as less than satisfied, i.e., neither agree nor disagree, dissatisfied, or highly dissatisfied.

In our surveys, 9% of our patients report that they “experienced a problem” but the vast majority of these were resolved internally by the practice prior to the survey. In our first year, only 54 patients requested follow-up for an unresolved problem. That’s out of 8,641 surveys!

RPR’s private alert system enables unhappy patients to communicate internally and privately. They’re not rating you badly or going to Yelp!

Patients who request contact want to work things out. They want you to help them solve a problem and they consider it to be a joint problem. They certainly can’t resolve it on their own.

I read every RPR alert. Often the patient reports a previous response from the practice such as, “That’s a known complication…” which covers things from hematomas to contractures. These brush-offs don’t resolve the matter for the patient. And in these days of ratings and reviews, it doesn’t resolve it for the practice either. I call these kinds of responses, “Doing a Pontius Pilate” and you know where that got us!

I believe that as an industry, we must change how we review revisions and how we stand behind our work. So what can we do?

  • Raise Revenue Per Hour for procedures with known complications allowing for pre-paid physician time to deal with complications.
  • Increase O.R. fees to offset free surgical time that must be provided in the case of revisions
  • Make sure patients buy revision insurance
  • Charge the marketing budget for costs of revisionary surgery
  • And other out-of-the-box ideas?

My husband Merrel had a great perspective on revisions. He’d ask himself, “Will it take me less time to fix it than to talk about it?” Mostly, he answered, “Yes”. Then he either proposed or agreed to do the revision. This thrilled his patients and added to his reputation. By the end of his career, he was operating on the grandchildren of his patients, which says something about patient satisfaction with his approach.

I urge you to take a hard look at your revision policies. When you are quoting a revision policy to a patient, ask yourself, “Is my response going to improve my reputation or put it at risk?” I hope your answer will be mutually satisfying to your patient and to your reputation.

Marie Olesen