With the prevalence of online rating sites, reviewers have the unprecedented potential to affect your dental business by influencing the public's perception of your services. Where once person-to-person word-of-mouth was the primary means of sharing opinions of a business, digital ratings and written reviews amplify the effect with their power to reach a much larger audience and spread communications more rapidly.
“Ratings are critical to the function and success of services in the emerging sharing economy,” according to a Stanford University Department of Sociology study published in Proceedings of the Tenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. “They are a means through which users develop trust in one another and in the services themselves. Ratings are designed to give users a proxy for the expected quality and risk of potential online transactions.”
Indeed, some studies do show a possible correlation between online ratings and quality of service, such as a 2016 study by Jessica J. Liu, et al. examining the correlation between online physician ratings and cardiac surgery mortality:
"We detected a weak but significant association between higher online physician ratings and lower CABG mortality. This study highlights physician rating websites as reflections of the patient experience, particularly for cardiac surgeons. Most cardiac surgeons have online ratings, and, overall, ratings are positive," wrote Liu, et al.
This same study cautions, however, that “although online physician ratings may evaluate certain care experiences when selecting a physician, consumers should not assume that higher online ratings predict good outcomes.”
Some online ratings and reviews are poor standards upon which to base expectations of service.
“We expect online ratings to reflect an objective measure of quality,” according to Liu, et al., “but such evaluations in fact may be systematically distorted by many, complex social-psychological processes.”
Ratings and reviews can promote and help grow a practice when they are positive; on the other hand, they can wreak havoc when they are negative and/or inaccurate.
To Fight, or Not to Fight
Taking action against someone who leaves a negative review—particularly an anonymous one—is nearly impossible. Most websites will not disclose the IP address or identity of the poster unless required to by law enforcement. Litigation is also costly, time-consuming, and unlikely to result in a judgment in your favor. Even if you do prevail in getting an on-line review removed, the lingering effects of online ambushes by former customers or employees cannot be known, and can’t be taken away, even by a judge.
Glassdoor.com responded to the question, “I’m an employer. What can I do about negative reviews on Glassdoor?” with: “If you sue our users and ask us to tell you who they are, we object and often fight in court to protect their anonymity,” and warns further, “If we feel strongly that your lawsuit is primarily intended to chill free speech, we may take extra steps to let the world know what you are up to.”
Winning a legal action against a negative or even malicious reviewer is not easy. The good news is that there are sound strategies that can help prevent negative reviews, encourage positive ones, and even turn negative reviews into wins.
Incisor will be researching and providing tips from experts for dentists on this topic to help you manage your online reputation and protect your practice. Stay tuned…
Liu, Jessica J, et al. “Association between online physician ratings and cardiac surgery mortality,” 1 Nov, 2016. Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. 2016;9:788–791.
State, Bogdan; Abrahao, Bruno; Cook, Karen. “Power Imbalance and Rating Systems”; Proceedings of the Tenth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. March 31, 2016.
Author: Kelly John Walker is an award-winning copywriter and Senior Writer and Editor with Strategic Dentistry, the parent company of DOCS Education. He holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental Science from New Mexico State University and a Bachelor of Arts in English Composition.