B2C businesses are always looking for ways to stand out in today’s marketplace. I believe one of the ways that distribution reps can help their hospitals stand above their competitors is by managing online reviews. This is an area where you can help your customers create a sustainable competitive advantage to protect their position or create an opportunity for their business. Let me suggest some ways you can approach this, and then you can decide if any would work for your customers.
Start by doing a search for “Veterinary hospitals in your City, State” on Google. I recommend Google because it is the most widely used search engine but you can also try the same search on Yelp or other search engines. Your hospitals should appear along with a number of reviews.
If there are no reviews, or the last review is more than 6 months old, there is a tremendous opportunity for you to consider the impact of social media, search engines, the Internet and to start by suggesting your practices ask their clients to post a review of their business. Today, most people use the Internet to search and if their hospital isn’t there and getting positive reviews they may be dismissed in the mind of that potential customer.
If there are positive reviews, they should be followed, within a week, by an acknowledgement from the practice thanking that client for their review. Something like, “Thank you for your kind words about Malone Veterinary Hospital. My staff and I attempt to do what’s best for our customers and we are always encouraged when we meet and exceed your expectations.”
If there are negative reviews, they should also receive a response but within 48 hours. Let me demonstrate how I believe these negative reviews should NOT be handled.
Example: A Veterinary Hospital owner, treating a cat with a chronic illness, recommended an abdominal ultrasound. The client took the cat to another clinic down the street, where they did the ultrasound. The cat ended up being euthanized; and the client posted a bad review for the original hospital owner. The practice owner replied, pointing out that they recommended the ultrasound. The cat owner replied with another bad review, and got all her friends to post bad reviews.
Clearly the practice owner’s response only inflamed the situation. It became one of those “If I can prove my point (we recommended an ultrasound) will you drop yours.” The practice owner’s response was very logical, but the reviewer was running on pure emotion.
The negative review is not going away. The real objective is to minimize its impact. So a better response might have included empathy and acknowledgement of the customer’s point of view without agreeing with that point of view. The following example illustrates both empathy and an acknowledgement of the reviewer’s point of view without agreeing with the review:
“I was sorry to hear that (cat’s name) was euthanized. These situations are difficult for everyone involved. I was pleased to hear that you followed our recommendation of an ultrasound. Finally, but most importantly, I apologize that our service did not meet your expectations as we strive to deliver the best medical care to all our patients and the best service for their owners.”
The reality of today’s business climate is that businesses are not going to satisfy the expectations of every potential customer. Bad reviews are part of doing business and are out of the business owner’s control. What can be controlled is how those few bad reviews are handled.
Now I realize that you have to manage your territory and are probably thinking “with everything else I don’t have time to be concerned about online reviews”. So don’t try it tackle it all at once. Take 10 practices and try these recommendations. I believe you will find that you will be seen in a different, more positive light. The most successful businesses I know focus first on making their customers successful. Try it and find out for yourself if it helps you and your business.
Patrick T Malone is a Leadership Expert and Senior Partner at The PAR Group, an international training and development firm based in Atlanta, Ga. He is the co-author of the business book Cracking the Code to Leadership and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org