Three Strategies to Harness the Power of Patients’ Opinions

Online reputation can be more valuable than any ads you might buy.

You know that keeping your patients happy and returning for recare is important. Within those happy customers is also a significant source of marketing energy that you may not be accessing. That power is your patients’ opinions and the effect they can have on the people in their social circles.

You rely on word-of-mouth referrals when you as a consumer buy just about anything—shoppers are 90 percent more likely to trust a product recommended by a friend. If your dental practice has no actionable plan to gather referrals, it’s time you take control of this rich source of influence. The process is straightforward: Make sure your current patients are happy with the care you provide, and encourage them to share their experiences with others. It sounds simple, but it’s also a little scary, because managing your online reputation as part of your marketing strategy is less tangible than, say, buying a radio spot. But with some guidance, you can take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing, which is usually less expensive and more effective than that radio ad. Following are three strategies for improving your online reputation.

1: Ask patients to recommend you

A recent survey showed that almost 70 percent of customers are willing to provide feedback when requested[1]. The key is how and when you ask. You need to make leaving a review convenient and a positive experience. Be sure you have a place on your website where you ask for comments. Yelp and Facebook are the most trusted sources of reviews online. Make sure you have a presence on both.

Ask patients when they leave your office to leave a review. Then send an email or text with a short survey about their experience. In your email, you can also ask a specific question, such as, “Hi Ruth, How did you like the cleaning you received from our new hygienist, Jennifer?” In the answer section, provide a five-star scale and a link to your website’s comments page. Also follow up with text, emails, and Facebook Messenger notes as you deem appropriate.

2: Launch a social media presence

Creating a presence on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites is a significant commitment that requires making this part of a staff member’s job description, but the payoff can be high. You should frequently post solid content that educates customers on topics they care about. What you should avoid is obvious self-promotion. People already try to avoid ads on TV and radio, and except for special offers, they won’t go out of their way to read your ads on a Facebook page. You should create a plan that states the frequency you will post content and goals for the number of followers, percentage of positive versus negative reviews, and the amount of traffic you expect to generate for your website.

3: Respond to comments, both positive and negative

Make sure you read all the comments on all your online sources, from your own website to Facebook, Yelp, and others. Also check other third-party sites such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Google Maps. Then respond to each comment. This is very important. Be especially vigilant in responding to negative reviews. Consumers accept that not every customer is happy every time. They do care about how you respond. Be thoughtful and sincere in your responses. Don’t post the same response to every comment. It is easy to say something generic like, “We appreciate your concern and will work to improve.” Much more effective is a sincere response to the specific comment, something like, “I am sorry that your cleaning was painful. I have spoken with our hygienist, and we have taken steps to ensure we are more sensitive next time.”

Do the following:

  • Review your current online reputation by running Google and Bing searches using your practice name plus “reviews” as the search terms.
  • Set goals for your online reputation, including your overall star rating — 57 percent of consumers avoid businesses with fewer than four stars and 40 reviews.
  • Make a plan for soliciting and posting happy-patient reviews.
  • Create a plan for your social media presence, and assign a staff member to post content and respond to comments.

Let us help

If you want a complementary guided assessment of your reputation management efforts, visit assessment.henryschein.com for a complimentary marketing review.


[1] Advantage Marketing, Presentation at Business of Dentistry Conference, 2019

By David Pearson
Senior Marketing Manager, Henry Schein One