April 19, 2018
Inside: When patients post negative online reviews about your pharmacy on social media or review websites, how you respond matters. Use these tips to respond tactfully and make the most of the situation.
You know how it goes. For all of the patients who appreciate your pharmacy’s extra efforts, you always have a few who still aren’t happy.
Maybe a patient complains about a long wait time. Or, a patient faults you for an expensive prescription.
Sometimes the negative feedback is for a legitimate reason. And other times, it’s not.
You likely deal with patients’ complaints in-person occasionally. But it’s important to remember that patients might talk about your pharmacy on another more public platform: the Internet.
Patients use the Internet to look up health advice, to scope out treatment options, and to search for providers. It’s likely then that they also use the Internet to look for a pharmacy.
“Online reviews have quickly become the way that consumers find local businesses, replacing window shopping, Yellow Pages, and even word-of-mouth,” said Brad Plothow, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Womply, which helps more than 100,000 small, brick-and-mortar businesses (including independent pharmacies) manage their online presences.
“People use their smartphones to research and find physical businesses when they’re looking to make a purchase. Businesses that ignore online reviews are ignoring the most effective channel for acquiring new customers.”
And as part of the community, independent pharmacies need to consider their local reputation, said Nicole Pinero, a specialist with Evergreen Partners, a public relations firm specializing in crisis communications, reputation management, litigation support, and issues management consulting.
“Their local reputation is critical—and negative reviews live forever. A small business’s personal approach to customer support is what sets them apart from major retailers.”
Chances are, patients have already left online reviews about your pharmacy.
Places to look for online reviews include:
Customers often take to these websites to vent about a business. Or, to talk about a great experience. (It’s not all negative online reviews.)
“For local, independent pharmacies, Yelp and Google My Business are the most important because they tend to show up at the top of local internet searches,” Plothow said. “When someone searches for a pharmacy nearby, you want your shop to show up in the first page of those search results. A robust presence on Yelp or Google My Business is the best way to ensure that happens.”
Look regularly for any mentions of your business online because, unlike face-to-face feedback, online reviews are open for anyone to see, including potential patients. Pinero said small businesses should check social media and review websites every day.
“Often, an upset customer might private message a business about their complaint before posting a public review,” she said. “This gives the business an opportunity to resolve the issue before a bad review is written—if you catch it quickly.”
If you encounter negative online reviews, how you handle the feedback will reflect on your business.
And because a single negative online review can cost businesses 30 customers, you want to respond correctly.
“Most consumers see a measured, thoughtful response to a negative or positive review as evidence that the business cares about customer service,” Plothow said. “The worst thing you can do is let reviews pile up without any response.”
Use the following best practices the next time you come across negative online reviews about your pharmacy.
When you spot a negative online review about your pharmacy, reply quickly. Don’t let the patient’s complaints go unanswered for long.
“Jump on it and keep it simple,” Pinero said. “Be personable and apologetic.”
In your response, invite the person to continue the conversation privately by phone or email. And, make sure to provide your direct contact information.
“Leaving a manager’s name and contact information is good customer service,” Pinero said. “It shows a level of commitment to the customer by wanting to resolve the problem. A personal response to a negative review can open the door for the reviewer write a positive review about how the business responded.”
If the review makes you angry, give yourself a little time to cool off before responding.
“The customer isn’t always right, but we absolutely don’t want them to feel they’ve been wronged,” Pinero said. “When possible, it is best to address the situation by phone and not on a public forum, which can simply invite more criticism.”
Try to empathize with the negative reviewer, even if the complaint seems unreasonable. Find something within the complaint that you can respond to favorably.
For example, say a patient complained in a review about a long wait time when she went to your pharmacy at 5 p.m. to fill a new prescription.
Politely respond by saying that your pharmacy offers opening hours beyond just 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accommodate patients with regular work schedules. But note that the pharmacy often gets busy around 5 p.m.
Give an explanation of the options you provide to patients to avoid long wait times, like automatic refills. Apologize and then provide the person with some feedback on additional ways you will work on the problem in the future.
“Be measured, thoughtful, and brief in your response,” Plothow said. “It’s tempting to get defensive and emotional when responding to negative online reviews, but that’s self-defeating. We recommend apologizing (even if it’s not your fault) that the consumer had a poor experience and offering to discuss and remedy the situation offline.”
And, as always make sure to avoid HIPAA violations in what you post.
It’s tricky to determine when you should and when you shouldn’t provide patients who complain with compensation.
If you do it too often, people may post negative feedback just to receive the discount or freebie. A good practice is to only offer online reviewers compensation if you or your employees made a legitimate mistake or oversight.
Any obvious customer service issue, like unfriendly techs or clerks, also warrants some kind of compensation.
But do it privately, through email or by phone.
Negative feedback happens.
You can respond to all of the negative comments you come across online, but the negative reviews will still be there—for anyone to see.
Balance your business’s online reputation by making sure patients also write positive reviews about your pharmacy.
Contact your best customers and ask them for a testimonial. Then, post their responses on your website and on your social media pages.
When you spread the word about your business in a positive way, you can cancel out those negative comments.
Don’t let negative online reviews get you down. Use them as an opportunity to provide amazing customer service.
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