Contrary to some common misperceptions, the majority of online consumer reviews are not complaints, and instead are 4-star or 5-star positive reviews. In fact, on Caring.com, 77% of consumer reviews in our Senior Care Directory are positively rated, and according to Think with Google, the number one reason that consumers write online reviews is altruism — to help others, not to slander a business.
So when you get the occasional negative review, then what to do? Even if you do everything right, the families and older adults you serve aren’t always happy, and sometimes there are other factors you can’t control that lead to grumpiness in online reviews.
How you respond to their critical feedback online may or may not change their perspective, but it can help persuade prospective residents who subsequently read the negative review(s) on your business listing. In fact, according to one survey by MarketingCharts.com and social marketing firm, Bazaarvoice: 7 in 10 survey respondents indicated that a brand’s response to an online consumer review changes their perception of the brand, most commonly by making them feel that the brand really cares about customers (41%), that it has great customer service (35%), and that it is trustworthy (22%).
Ignoring online reviews is not in your best interest.
In a Spring 2014 survey Caring.com conducted, we found that 67% of family caregivers and older adults are using online directories to find potential senior living communities and home care agencies, and relying on reviews to help narrow their choices. These firsthand testimonials provide insights into what current or former clients liked and disliked about the business, and how the listed business may or may not meet the prospective clients’ needs. Online reviews influence consumer confidence, and are far more trusted than advertising. When you ignore a negative review on your business listing, you allow the disgruntled former client to persuade your target customer at a ‘moment of truth’ — and that scenario is unlikely to work in your favor, especially if there are extremely critical falsehoods in the content of the review.
How to Monitor and Respond to Reviews of Your Business
Whether you use a third-party service or software, or have your in-house team track the feedback you get on the Internet, be vigilant about what people are saying about your business online and take strategic action to manage your reputation.
Learn the guidelines and procedures that each website has for responding to online reviews about your business. Contest or take action to remove a negative review if there are factual errors, and/or when you believe the review doesn’t meet the website’s review guidelines (and they erred in posting it). If there are no factual errors or guideline issues — and it’s simply negative opinion, explore your options for posting a response.
At Caring.com, we’ve seen dramatic increases in the “Provider Response” feature being used by senior living communities and home care agencies over the last couple of years. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 61% increase in the amount of provider responses posted in our Senior Care Directory, and from 2013 to 2014, the volume more than tripled. These savvy providers are paying attention to what’s being said about their service offering, and taking the opportunity to post responses to both negative and positive reviews on their listings. Here are some samples of their comments:
- Responses to Multiple Memory Care Reviews in Encinitas, CA
- Response to Home Care Complaint in Little Rock, AR
- Responses to Multiple Assisted Living Reviews in Bridgeville, PA
For assisted living and memory care communities listed on Caring.com: To earn the annual Caring Stars award, the stringent criteria require responding to negative reviews on your listing. You simply cannot qualify for a “service excellence” award if responding to critical feedback isn’t part of your service package.
Important to Note:
- If you have an enhanced (paid) listing on Caring.com, you will receive automated alerts when new reviews are posted. Those review alerts will include convenient quick links to online forms where you can input information to contest a review or post a response.
- For all listed businesses on Caring.com: Our team is available to address your review questions and post your responses via email@example.com or our customer service Help Desk.
For Review Responses: Carefully Craft Your Message
It’s natural to be angry or offended when someone badmouths you online. But you better cool down before you respond to critical feedback – especially when you think the consumer’s opinion is unfair, wrong, or ill intentioned. Remember, it’s the prospective client you are most influencing, and they may be more empathetic or receptive to the disgruntled former client and be more suspicious of you, especially if your words of the response reinforce any negative perceptions they may have about you.
Prospective clients know you’re not perfect, and they want to read both positive and negative reviews. In case they too have a problem or complaint at some point, they want to know they’ll be dealing with a reasonable person — not someone who goes ‘off the handle’ with negative feedback.
- Don’t go on the attack against reviewers over a difference of opinion or their word choice. For example, many consumers still use the term “nursing home” to apply to any senior living community with care services. If your community is not a skilled nursing facility, use the correct language for your service offering without berating the reviewer for their word choice mistake.Another common example: You may think your typically top-rated chef only makes the freshest, most delicious food. However, some reviewers may still call your community’s food terrible. That’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it — you have many options for how you respond to that person’s taste buds, and dismissing them through your words online shouldn’t be among the tactics you consider.A third, frequent example that comes up with negative reviews on Caring.com: Your opinion about the quality of phone service at your front desk or home care agency office may be radically different than the reviewer. Rather than argue that your sweet, mild-mannered receptionist is never rude, take the opportunity to thank the reviewer for their feedback, which you’ll take into consideration as you maintain delivery of excellence in all areas of your business.
- Be very careful with your tone in any published response. Demonstrate that you’re open to hearing all feedback, and available to address concerns. Be an excellent communicator who handles challenges with grace and professionalism, isn’t argumentative, and is service oriented. Even if the person who reviewed you is totally out of line, it’s better to avoid being edgy, aggressive, arrogant, or rude. While a restaurateur may get some great press or accolades from such an approach, these styles don’t translate well in the senior care industry where you’re expected to be sensitive and kind in responding to complaints from those you serve.
- Redirect the conversation to your customer service channels — provide your email, phone, Help Desk, etc. — where you can collect and share information about details of the complaint outside of the public eye, including sensitive information that shouldn’t be discussed online, such as information covered in HIPAA privacy law. If you encounter a less-optimized review website that is unlike Caring.com and does not allow you to include your phone number or email in a review response: use language to refer to ways your trained customer service team can be reached.
- Avoid going tit for tat — resist the urge to debate the merits of every nit in the review. This approach will help you to avoid further damage to your online reputation, respect the privacy of the involved parties, and stay focused on positively influencing the prospective client.
- Be authentic and conversational. Don’t sound like a robot. Your legal and PR staff may provide a “template” or text for you to use in all of your review responses, but if you overuse that approach, you can inadvertently come across as an insensitive, detached entity that doesn’t really care about hearing negative feedback or applying service changes to address concerns. When the same template response appears on every negative review, it can send a message that you’re not truly listening to the feedback of individual consumers, nor tailoring your response to meet individual needs. With this “same response to every negative review” approach, you can create a perception that your response is nothing more than a PR tactic, rather than true customer service.
- Have empathy. Remember that family caregivers and older adults have a range of challenges that may be contributing to their negative words and tone toward your organization. It’s not an excuse for their behavior, but is a perspective that can help you craft a response demonstrating kindness and senior care expertise.
- Be thankful for feedback. The reviewer took the time to alert you to their complaint, and now you have an opportunity to address it. Had they simply shared their opinions at an offline cocktail party, it would be out of earshot for your staff and you’d be left out of the conversation. With the online review, you have the ability to hear the message, reflect on the feedback, and respond as necessary.
In fact, consider approaching all negative reviews about your business with this question, “What can be learned from this feedback? Do we have opportunities here for improvement? How so?”
The answer may be as simple as: “Even though we did our best for that individual, we didn’t meet their needs/preferences, and we need to get more reviews from our happy clients to balance that online word-of-mouth.” Through Caring.com’s Digital Marketing Academy and monthly webcasts, we’ve covered our programs for generating senior care reviews, and will continue to cover that topic in upcoming posts on this blog too. In the meantime, please contact your Membership Advisor or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how to get consumer reviews on your Caring.com listing.
- Online Reputation Management for Senior Living Communities
- Reputation.com: How NOT to Respond to Negative Reviews Online
- SocialBro: 7 Ways to Turn Bad Feedback into Good Social Media
- Why Online Reviews are Good for Senior Care