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Has your dental practice received a bad review online? Dr Len Tau is well-known in the dental industry as “the Reputation Doctor.” He was named one of Philadelphia’s Top Dentists, and “Dentistry Today” named him one of the top leaders in dental consulting. He speaks at dental conferences around the country on reputation marketing, digital marketing, social media, case presentation, and improving profits.


Dr. Tau has been a practicing dentist for 20 years and has 1,700 positive reviews on Google. He also has some negative ones, so he knows the pain that causes. “It hurts when you get it. I always like to say: a bad review may spoil your breakfast, but don’t let it spoil your lunch.”

Dr. Tau has this advice: when you get a bad review, take a few deep breaths and relax for at least 20 minutes. You never want to respond to a bad review in anger.

Then, evaluate the comment. Does it contain any truth? Did the patient identify a valid issue? Dr. Tau recommends trying to view the review as constructive criticism.

Next, try to contact the patient offline. Dr. Tau recommends calling the patient to address the concern. You can begin by saying something like, “I saw your review online and wanted to give you a call to talk about it.” A lot of times, you can fix the problem for the patient once you have more information. Many patients are thrilled that the dentist or office manager took the time to address their concern and identify a solution, and then you can say, “I’m glad we were able to resolve this. Would you mind removing the review now? We strive to provide excellent patient care and customer service, and we’d appreciate it.”

If that doesn’t work, Dr. Tau recommends posting a short, polite response to the online review.

“You don’t want to shame them. You don’t want to call them out. Post a nice, short reply to acknowledge that you heard them and that you attempted to contact them to discuss the concern,” said Dr. Tau.

Dentists also have to be careful of HIPAA laws and not revealing the patient’s health condition. “You can’t divulge any personal information about the appointment,” explained Dr. Tau. “For example, you can’t say the patient’s gums bled because they hadn’t been to a dentist in a year.”

It is okay to acknowledge that the reviewer is a patient, since they have already publicly stated that.


Can You Pay to Remove a Bad Review?

A lot of dentists ask how can they remove a bad review? Unfortunately, you can’t. “You can’t pay a company to get reviews off,” said Dr. Tau. And you should never sue, or threaten to sue, a patient over a review.

“You’ll make the news if you do,” said Dr. Tau. He shows examples during his seminars. “And you don’t to make the news for that.”


Best Way to Handle a Bad Review

“The best defense against a negative review is to simply get more positive feedback from your patients,” recommended Dr. Tau.

Google’s algorithm takes a few factors into account when it determines which reviews to show. One, it looks at whether there is a comment in addition to the star rating. Two, it considers how recently the review was added; newer reviews are typically shown at the top. Three, it looks for integrity factors. If the office is consistently adding new reviews each week, those are more likely to be displayed than if the dental practice gets a bunch of reviews just on one day.

There are several ways to ask happy patients to leave an online review. One is to simply ask them to post a review on Google before they leave your dental practice. Another is to use a company like BirdEye, which is an online review management and customer service software. It sends an email or text message to the patient after they leave the practice and includes a link that will take the patient right to the dental practice’s Google review page. Dr. Tau is a general manager at BirdEye and uses it in his own practice.

By steadily adding good reviews, the bad review will be pushed down.


Important to Add Good Reviews

Dental practices with a higher Google rating and more positive reviews generally show up higher in search results than dental practices that don’t. That helps more people who are searching for a dentist find your practice. It also makes them feel more confident about calling you. Online reviews have become the modern day equivalent of “word of mouth” advertising. Whereas people used to ask their neighbor which dentist they use, now they read the online reviews instead.

In addition to helping your practice attract more new patients, good reviews can help you attract talented team members. “I had a potential employee who told me one of the reasons she was so excited to come to my practice for a job interview was that I had all these great reviews. She said before she even applies for a job, she looks at the reviews of the practice,” said Dr. Tau.

Your online reputation is important to the success of your practice. Knowing how to handle a bad review by (1) trying to address the situation offline and then asking the person to remove the review, (2) posting a polite response inviting them to call your practice to discuss the concern, and (3) adding new reviews from happy patients will all help you highlight the focus you place on providing great patient care and customer service.

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