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How to use client reviews to your advantage

Do you shudder when you hear the words “client review?” If so, you’re probably in good company!

After all, research shows that we’re more prone to remember negative experiences than positive ones. Therefore, you probably remember most of the negative reviews your practice has received and too easily forget about all of the positive ones.   

Negative reviews aren’t just depressing. At times, they can feel downright dangerous. In the US, many followed along in shock and sadness as a veterinary hospital in Maine received death threats from an angry internet mob, all based on the feedback of a single client. Instances like these make client reviews seem even more risky. Although these incidents are rare, they can loom large in our minds.  

It’s only natural to be a bit wary of soliciting client feedback. But what if client reviews could actually help your practice?

 

Can client reviews be a good thing?

Despite our fears surrounding client reviews, they can offer a number of benefits for you and your practice.

When used internally, client reviews provide valuable information about what is and isn’t working in your practice. Positive reviews can help you decide which features to promote within your community and which aspects of your practice are providing the most value for your clients. Negative reviews can serve as constructive criticism, helping you identify areas of opportunity and make needed improvements in your facility, protocols, and training. Incorporating feedback provided through client reviews can help you create the best possible version of your practice.

Publicly displaying client reviews can offer additional marketing benefits. Approximately 72% of clients consider online reviews when selecting a service. Displaying positive reviews on your website, and encouraging your clients to submit positive reviews to Google, Yelp, etc., can help attract new clients to your practice, allowing you to create a clientele that is in line with your practice values.  

In order to take full advantage of client feedback, it’s important to think through how you will address both positive and negative reviews. Being intentional and deliberate in your approach can help you maximize the benefits for your practice, your clients, and your team.

 

Use positive feedback to boost team morale

Mental well-being is widely recognized as a significant struggle in veterinary medicine. While positive client reviews alone are unlikely to solve this problem, they can be a valuable tool in increasing team member satisfaction, thus improving morale and well-being.

Clients are often quick to tell your team members about things they dislike. On any given day, your team may hear multiple clients grumble about prices, wait times, and other issues. Satisfied clients, in contrast, may be less vocal about their feelings. Even when clients do express their gratitude, these compliments may be less memorable than the complaints of angry clients.

[See also: The unexpected link between happy clients & happy veterinary teams]

Eliciting positive client feedback in writing, in the form of a review, can provide valuable opportunities to recognize and celebrate your team members’ contributions to your practice.

There are several ways to share positive feedback with your team. For instance: 

  • Send positive client comments directly to a team member’s email account or hospital inbox.
     
  • Post client compliments on a specific bulletin board or other visible area in the practice. 

  • At the start of scheduled team meetings, consider reading positive client feedback. This time can be used to recognize team members who provide exceptional client service, while also ensuring that you start your team meetings on a positive note.

Regardless of how you choose to share positive feedback, it can play an important role in ensuring that your team members feel valued and appreciated.

 

Thoughtfully evaluate negative feedback

When you receive negative feedback, it’s natural to become defensive. Resist this temptation, step back from the situation, and evaluate the criticism thoughtfully.

Begin by thanking the client for sharing their opinion. Gather more information, if possible, so you can better understand their complaints. Additionally, apologize for any misunderstandings that may have caused them frustration. You may do this on a public forum if their review was posted publicly or via a telephone call if the review was submitted to your practice privately.

After following up with the client, consider whether the complaint represents a valid concern. It’s impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. Even the most client-friendly practice will receive occasional negative reviews, because everyone has a bad day every now and then. While every review is valid from the perspective of the client, not all negative reviews require further action.

You don’t necessarily need to share every negative review with your team, because this may only serve to decrease team morale. However, some negative reviews reveal legitimate opportunities for improvement.

If clients are consistently complaining about wait times, for example, this may indicate that you need to revisit your appointment scheduling or staffing. If you receive multiple complaints about your hospital’s cleanliness, re-evaluate your cleaning protocols. Even an isolated piece of constructive criticism can give you valuable insights on how to improve your practice.

Occasionally, you may receive a review that is angry, hostile, or threatening. Decide in advance how you will respond to these reviews, in order to ensure a healthy workplace and protect the safety of your team. An exceptionally hostile or threatening review indicates a breakdown in the veterinary-client-patient relationship, and you may want to refuse future services to these clients or recommend that they seek care elsewhere.  

 

Collecting client reviews

Many of us are accustomed to receiving email surveys after taking our car in for service, visiting our physician, or interacting with other service-based businesses.

While you may think of follow-up email surveys as the domain of large corporations, these tools are also available to your practice. Veterinary client communication tools can be used to automatically request a review after every single client interaction, providing your practice with a steady stream of valuable, actionable client feedback.

Using client feedback thoughtfully and intentionally can help you create the best possible practice for your clients, your patients, and your veterinary team.

Author

Cathy Barnette, DVM

Cathy Barnette, DVM is a veterinarian and freelance writer based in Florida. After 14 years as a small animal general practitioner, Dr. Barnette now focuses on creating educational content for veterinary teams and their clients. She shares her home with her husband, daughter, one dog, two cats, and a rescued white dove.

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