Diana Friedman discusses the value of online reviews to the dental practice
The Internet is where personal and professional communication and inter-action take place in the digital age. Phone calls have, in large part, been replaced by an ever-expanding array of online systems including email, text messaging, social media outlets (like Facebook and LinkedIn), and conferencing systems (like GoToMeeting and Skype). Considering the fact that 99% of consumers with a household income of $75K or above use the Internet, the Internet is the best and most economical way for a practice to gain visibility and effectively communicate with its patients.
However, using the Internet to promote your practice and engage your patient community does have its challenges. The impact of consumers’ access to digital dental care information and the proliferation of dental practice websites make standing out from your competition and maintaining a powerful online brand quite difficult.
The good news is consumers are just as overwhelmed by the volume of information out there and have had to turn to new online tools to assist them in quickly finding the information and personal insights they need to make informed decisions. As access to information has expanded, online reviews have become impactful in helping consumers make choices about services and providers. Not surprisingly, 90% of people surveyed stated they are influenced by online reviews. More significantly, an astounding 72% of consumers state they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations.
The question then becomes — does this impact dentistry? And if so, in what way? A national market research study decisively answered this question, as 70% of surveyed dental patients stated that online reviews are as important as the dentist’s credentials. Considering the fact that reviews are so critical to converting referrals and growing your patient base, this article addresses four imperatives you need to put in place to optimize your online review syndication strategy to drive the most value for your practice.
When consumers go online to make a purchase decision, they often rely on reviews from other purchasers to determine the quality of the product or service under consideration. If a practice has only a few online reviews, the credibility of those reviews is called into question — there’s just not enough input to instill the confidence needed for prospective patients to make an informed decision. The key to an effective review strategy is to have a significant number of recent reviews that confirm and reinforce the consumer’s choice of your practice.
A recent study of 98 dental practices using the Dental Sesame™ patient engagement system found these practices generated an average of more than 21 qualified post-appointment patient reviews each month. This volume is significant and, when syndicated online, can quickly build a large volume of credible and qualified reviews that prospective patients can reference when evaluating your practice.
Volume of reviews is important as it adds credibility to your overall ranking and provides prospective patients with the confidence to choose your practice. The challenge with online reviews is that they are not all created equal. As I travel across the country and speak to hundreds of dentists, I always get anecdotal stories about negative reviews online, which the practice cannot identify or take proactive actions to correct.
The best way to combat this is to syndicate reviews you know are from your patient community and to have it happen automatically. Requiring the dental team to ask for reviews can be effective, but it requires the patient to leave the practice, remember the request, get online, and write a review. Often this means the majority of the “ask” will not yield reviews. The most efficient and effective way to overcome this challenge is to activate automated post-appointment surveys. In this process, every patient can receive an email after his/her appointment that provides a link to a simple survey. All the patient needs to do is click the link and answer the questions. A robust patient engagement system will aggregate the reviews, share them with the practice, and syndicate them immediately online.
3. Location … location … location
Having the right volume of quality reviews is the cornerstone of an effective online reputation strategy for your practice. The next element necessary to drive patient acquisition is to syndicate these reviews to the right online portal. Traditionally, dental online review syndication systems published reviews to “microsites,” which would then (hopefully) appear within search engine results. The challenge with publishing your valuable online reviews to a microsite is that consumers rarely go there to evaluate a service provider. Equally challenging (and frustrating) is the fact that the vendors posting your reviews to their microsites will delete your online reviews if you deactivate your service — a high risk proposition for your practice.
Syndicating your reviews to a credible online destination puts the power of the reviews in front of consumers who are choosing their next dental care provider. Sites such as Healthgrades, with annual traffic of more than 20 million visitors seeking to identify a dental care provider, offer maximum exposure for your practice and ensure your online reviews remain intact should you choose to use another patient engagement vendor. Market research from Healthgrades found that an amazing 54% of visitors scheduled an appointment with a practice within a week of visiting the site and reviewing profiles in their area.
Sesame Communications recently concluded a national market research study and found that 94.3% of dentists with Healthgrades stated that it is important to the success of their practice. On average, practices activating a Healthgrades Enhance Profile received 11 appointment inquiries per month.
4. Focus on ROI
Executing the right strategy vis-à-vis reviews is excellent. But how do you know it is working to drive new patients into your practice? It is important to use a syndication provider that can track all incoming emails and calls from the syndication site so that you are assured the strategy is working and providing value for your practice.
Reviews are an excellent way to build credibility with prospective patients and encourage them to select your practice. It is important to work with a vendor that can generate the right volume of qualified patient reviews, syndicate them where it matters, and provide you with ROI data documenting new patients being driven through those channels to the practice.