As a veterinary practice owner, you are probably all too aware of the damage negative online reviews can do to your practice. And, while a negative online review might make you want to run away and hide, it’s important to realize that the way you address a negative review can have a positive or negative impact on how other pet owners in your community perceive your practice.

Should I respond to a negative online review?

Yes. And your response should be public. Before a pet owner brings her pet into your hospital, she’s most likely done research online. She’s looked up the various animal hospitals in your area and has probably come across reviews of these animal hospitals—both positive and negative. She’s already read about the experiences other pet owners have had with the animal hospitals in the community. She’s also read the responses to those reviews from the animal hospitals themselves.

Failing to respond to a negative online review can be just as bad as the negative review itself. Before you do respond, however, it’s important that you carefully prepare your answer. Once your response is published, it’s almost impossible to take your words back.

If necessary, take some time to cool down before responding. You might feel the client is completely off-base or has grossly misrepresented the events, but you must be diplomatic in your response.

What is my goal when responding to a negative online review?

While crafting your response to a negative online review, keep the following in mind:

  • Avoid an argument at all costs. Do not fuel the reviewer’s fire.
  • Mention how sorry and saddened you are to hear of the reviewer’s issues, and let her know you will contact her by phone to rectify the situation.  
  • When applicable, clear up any possible misunderstandings. Many negative reviews are based on misunderstandings; clearing them up might be all it takes to resolve the issue.
  • Show prospective clients that you care what others think of your practice, and that you’re committed to rectifying any issues clients may encounter with you or your team.

Your ultimate goal is to resolve the reviewer’s problem and restore her faith in your practice. Once you’ve spoken with the client over the phone and rectified the situation, ask her to consider removing the negative review, or at least noting publicly that the issue was resolved.

What about embellished or false reviews?

Readers of online reviews can tell what a business owner is dealing with based on the style of the review. Some people are verbose in their reviews, but they might not be logical. Sometimes people say things that are obviously far-fetched, harsh, or untrue. Many of these reviews will be easily sniffed out and dismissed by potential clients.

As a business owner, you can only do so much. What’s that quote? “You can’t make everyone happy. You aren’t pizza.” OK, that might not be the exact original quote, but you get the point. And it’s OK: Research has shown that people have a hard time believing that a business’s online reviews are authentic if there is only positive feedback. A negative experience is expected—and OK—from time to time. Breathe. Move forward. Embrace the criticism so you can grow.

Need help managing your online reputation?

Feel overwhelmed monitoring the multiple online review websites out there? InTouch Practice Communications, the premier marketing agency dedicated to the veterinary industry, offers an online reputation management tool that helps to efficiently keep track of what’s being said about your practice and team members online so you can respond quickly and appropriately.

Visit or call 800-493-9003 to learn more about InTouch’s comprehensive suite of veterinary marketing tools, including custom websites, search engine optimization, social media, telephone message on-hold, branding, and much more. AAHA members can also save up to 50 percent on select InTouch products.

Comments (1) -

8/19/2016 6:35:38 AM #

Reputation management should be a top priority for businesses having an online presence. In this day and age, it only takes seconds for people to vent their frustrations online and some of them might cause real damage to brands that do not address them correctly or simply ignore. That's why I think it's super important to make use of social listening tools like, for example, that enable its users to track all the discussions relevant to them in real-time. If taken care of promptly and gracefully, at the end of the day even the worst negative comments might actually turn out not so bad.

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