Reputation Management 101: How to Monitor Your Online Brand
By Drew Stevens, PhD
If you're like me, as a child you were taught, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." No matter what someone said to me, they weren't going to harm me with name-calling. However, as a doctor, you're not just a person; you're similar to any product or service. Doctors, their staff and their practices have a brand, and like all products or services, that brand must be protected.
The value of a brand is that patients invest for the brand's own sake, not with the usual amount of analysis, cynicism or caution. A brand creates a response among the public. Think of brands you use that create eponymous communication. Branding is more about the perception of excellence than the perception of a good deal. This holds true for services and doctors. Negative press can instantly and immeasurably harm your brand. This reality makes it essential to engage in reputation management to help protect your brand.
Why is the patient [customer] experience so important? From a business perspective, poor patient [customer] experiences result in an estimated $83 billion in lost revenue by U.S. enterprises each year because of defections and abandoned purchases.1 And according to Oracle's 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report, 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience, and 26 percent posted a negative comment on a social networking site.2
Why Reputation Management Matters
The use of the Internet is outstanding, with more than 670 million Web pages and over 33 percent of the global population now engaged online. Prospective patients are utilizing search engines to find a new doctor and then conducting a tremendous amount of research to determine if that doctor's brand matches with the patient's value. In addition to the myriad websites that provide information about you, online forums, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels can contain comments – for better or worse – about you. True, false or indifferent, these digital footprints will cast a blanket on your practice.
A proactive approach requires doctors and staff to monitor the Web on a regular basis. There are simply too many entry points that create bad press. The World Wide Web also has created a revolution of individuals who dispense negative information online, even though they would never say it to / about you in person. And with more than 1 billion searches per day, these negative ratings, comments and opinions can irreparably harm your brand.
For example, let's consider Amazon, which you've probably utilized at some point in time. Amazon is a broker of goods and services, and with each one, there is a comment area so buyers can share what they've enjoyed (or not enjoyed) about the particular product or service. Herein lies the question: How many products have you refrained from purchasing because of another reviewer's comments – whether they were truthful or not?
Now consider how this same process could impact a potential patient's decision of whether or not to book an appointment with you.
Getting Started: 8 Tips
How can you develop a system to ensure your patients speak well about your practice? If you can develop a successful system, you will ensure a steady stream of new patients enthusiastic to have you as their doctor. Here are some simple suggestions:
1. You need to be good offline and online. What you say and what your staff says to patients is alive for the world to hear. Ensure you and your staff create a positive experience from the entry point to departure. Be polite and inviting upon entry, present a solution for the patient to take home on their first visit, listen for and resolve any issues or concerns, and always end with a fond farewell and an invitation to return.
2. Scrutinize Your Online Reputation. What you and your staff say is alive on social media, websites, blogs, YouTube, etc. Anything you say today is documented electronically for the world to see. When a patient has a wonderful experience, they will tell the world about it. When the patient has a bad experience, they also will tell the world about it. Prospective and existing patients continually document the good, the bad and the ugly on a daily basis on the Internet for more than 4.5 billion people to see.
Conduct Internet searches on your name and your practice weekly. If you do not have the ability to do this, then utilize your staff to do it for you. Here are some of the things you should be reviewing:
3. Correct and improve information on external sites. As you continually monitor the Web, ensure your name, address and other pertinent data are correct. If you find an error, request changes be made so the correct information is listed.
4. Don't argue online. Never get into arguments with any prospective, existing or previous patients online. Remember, what you say will live in perpetuity on the Internet, so you will live to regret it. Simply take the heat and move on. It's not always easy, but it's your absolute best option.
5. Become a content expert. Providing thought leadership and expert advice related to health care will appeal to prospective and existing patients. By becoming a thought expert online, you'll also enhance your social-media and search-ranking status.
6. Be cautious about your personal activities, both past and present. Vacations and conferences are fun until the world knows about the intimate details of your activities. It is always best to err on the side of caution. Beware of posting photos or comments that put you in a compromising position or would make a potential / existing patient think twice about retaining you as their doctor.
7. Immediately respond to unhappy customers on social media. Be thoughtful about your responses and never be antagonistic. Simply resolve the problem and move on.
8. If someone mentions something positive about you / your practice, provide some reward or recognition. Think in terms of how to win friends and influence people; reward those who have been kind to you.
Maintain Your Focus
The most important tip when it comes to reputation management is to maintain your focus. Reputation management must be a practice priority so you and your staff can proactively monitor both the good and the bad issues that arise online. Your goal is to make your reputation (your name) elicit a positive response at all times.
Online Monitoring Tools
Remember, your name and your practice is a brand. Based upon services offered, patient service and other nuances, there is value placed in the patient's mind. It is this positioning that creates an emotional appeal whereby patients book appointments for brand sake.
Reputation management, when handled appropriately, can potentially increase pipeline flow, decrease obstacles to prospective patient entry and increase your revenue. It's similar to planting a tree and ensuring it has viable root structure – root your future revenue today.
Drew Stevens, PhD, is known as "The Revenue Doctor." He helps chiropractors develop strategies that exponentially grow revenue and returns personal time. He is the author of eight books including the widely acclaimed "Practice Acceleration" by Greenbranch publishing. He can be reached through his website at www.stevensconsultinggroup.com.