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Responding to Three-Star Reviews of Your Hospital or Doctors

You have alerts set up and scour review sites for those dreaded one- and two-star ratings. You jump on the ones that start with, “If I could have given ZERO stars, I would have.” And rightfully so. How you respond to negative reviews affects not only your relationship with the reviewer but your reputation with anyone who reads it forever after. But it’s just as important to respond to neutral reviews for a few reasons:

  1. The neutral reviewer might be on the fence about whether or not to give your services another try. Responding in earnest could be what encourages him or her to come back, and who knows, perhaps post a new or updated review that’s more favorable.
  2. A thoughtful response may ease concerns of potential patients who are coming to your hospital or physicians for the first time.
  3. Search engines including Google reward businesses that respond to customer reviews—all of them—with more favorable local search rankings.

Basics for Responding to Online Reviews

Whether positive, negative or neutral, there are some guidelines you should stick to when responding to online reviews:

  1. Respond promptly. Almost 52 percent of reviewers expect a response within seven days, and nearly half of those expect a response in 24 hours or less. We know you’re busy, but do what you can to respond in as little time as possible.
  2. Be professional. It’s unfortunate this needs to be stated, but it does. Try not to take patient reviews personally. No matter what’s said, be thankful you have the opportunity to learn your patients’ perceptions.
  3. Can the canned responses. Your patient took the time and energy to write a review specific to your hospital. Do the same in return and pen a personal response. Canned “Thank you for your review! We hope to see you again!” responses have the potential to do more harm than good in hospital marketing, where the subject matter is highly personal and sensitive.
  4. Show empathy. Nearly half of all reviewers don’t expect a response at all, which tells us people are more interested in being heard than anything. Make sure they know you appreciate their thoughts and understand their concerns.
  5. Listen and learn. Patient reviews are a goldmine of insight straight from your patients’ mouths (or fingertips). Don’t waste it. Use the feedback when brainstorming content topics and crafting future messaging.

How to Respond to a Neutral Review

You’ve tackled the negative reviews, and now it’s time to respond to the neutral ones. What should you say? While we don’t advocate using canned responses, following a formula makes the work easier:

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  • Thank them for sharing his or her thoughts.
  • Acknowledge any positive comments.
  • Apologize for the specific complaint.
  • If applicable, tell about any updates in procedures, equipment, parking (!) involved in the complaint.
  • Invite them to call your patient representatives directly for more help.

Here is an example:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us! We’re so pleased to hear you had an excellent experience with our nurses when you were here for knee surgery. We think they’re pretty great, too. That’s a shame we didn’t have any breakfast items that sounded appealing to you. We’re actually just about to revamp our café menu. If you have some ideas for what should be included, please email us at café

Ignoring reviews is the last thing that you should do! If you want to create a solid review base of satisfied customers, then they need to know that you care about their experiences – positive, negative, and neutral. If you have any questions about this process, don’t hesitate to contact us for help with the entire review process!

TotalCom Marketing is a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories – our clients’ stories. Contact us for more information or view our work here.