Reviews are the new SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies for businesses, whether online or physical like all our dental offices. When dental offices were just starting to come online with practice websites, the biggest way to get ranked high in Google searches and show up on the first page or even the first result for new patients searching for “dentist Cleveland” was SEO.
Search Engine Optimization simply means optimizing your website to conform to the rules that Google sets, since they’re the ones indexing everyone’s website. This means putting lots of content on your website in the form of articles, pictures, and videos that explain relevant search terms. When a prospective patient searches for “Invisalign in Cleveland”, your website that has those terms all over the place will show up at the top of that patient’s Google results. You’ve optimized your website for those terms.
That used to be how we got ranked high in Google results. But not now. Google (and other sites as well) algorithms are so advanced that SEO isn’t the only criteria used to determine what websites are the highest ranked and most relevant to the person searching.
Google computers are now taking into consideration our search intent to decide what websites (and BUSINESSES) are most relevant to our searches. When your prospect searches “Invisalign Cleveland” today, Google interprets that search to mean the person is looking for a dental office that provides Invisalign services in or around that city. Google is serving results based on the intention of the search terms, not only the words themselves. That means that SEO is less important.
What is becoming ever more important is your online reputation. Google knows that websites with a bunch of keywords and content aimed at optimizing the search engine algorithm aren’t necessary the best result for what people are searching for. So our online reputation is an indication, social proof, that our offices and physical locations are exactly what is being sought out.
Reviews are the online equivalent of your word-of-mouth reputation. They are the platform or outlet customers have to voice their opinions about the products, services, and experiences they have with the businesses they interact with. We brush them off sometimes as inconsequential tech fads, but the reality is reviews and online reputation are becoming more important and ubiquitous. And it doesn’t look like they’re going away any time soon like so many other burst internet bubbles.
Automatic reviews asking services will be a complete waste if you and your team aren’t telling your patients, face-to-face, about your Reviews Culture.
Your online reputation is what OTHERS are saying about you. If you have control over the content that gets published on your website, that isn’t exactly an honest opinion about your office, is it? Online reviews are really the only way to get the digital word out about you, and are the digital representations of your reputation. Even though reviews can only be submitted and published online it is still our responsibility as business owners and service providers to request that feedback from our own customers, face-to-face, look ‘em in the eyes, pressing the flesh.
We can have services send emails and text messages to prompt our patients to leave reviews, but those services will be ineffective and a waste of money if you aren’t interacting with your patients and reminding them in person to give your office feedback.
Part of your team protocol and office procedure manual should be scripts for handoffs and patient dismissals. Those scripts should always include reminders that your office takes your reputation seriously and encourage your patients to leave online reviews and honest feedback.
This accomplishes two big goals, in our practice.
First, you’re creating a reviews culture among your team and patients. You want everyone to know that reviews aren’t only for new fangled gadgets and restaurants. They’re for dental offices too. When you incorporate reviews into your daily (probably HOURLY!) scripts for handing off and dismissing patients you’re reinforcing the idea that you encourage feedback about your business and it will prompt patients to TAKE ACTION by actually spending the time to leave a review.
Secondly, and probably a more important consequence of implementing a daily “feedback ask” script, is that you receive nearly immediate feedback on how you can improve your office. When our team asks every patient to leave us honest feedback, that puts us all in a “service” mentality and the whole office improves, from the front office to the back office to the doctors delivering treatment.
The goal by asking for feedback and receiving more reviews isn’t actually to get more reviews. The real goal, in my mind for my practice, is to improve my level of service and provide better experiences for my patients. They’ll in turn refer more patients and provide the social proof to be a dominant business in my area.
By having the reviews culture in my office, we are all more aware of the kind of service we are providing to all our patients and we make better decisions because of it.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t automate the reviews acquisition process. Quite the opposite. When things get busy and we’re firing on all cylinders, we might not remember to ask our patients for feedback. That’s where automatic texting and email comes in.
We’ve given our patients the heads up that we like getting reviews and we encourage leaving feedback (although we admit, we like getting 5-star reviews the BEST!) but we haven’t told them where to go and post online. That’s where automated services pick up the slack.
There are several companies that offer online reviews garnering services. In the dental space there are some that synchronize the appointment completion with sending email, but there are only a few and they’re quite expensive, in my opinion. So I built a service for a third of the price. I hate getting gouged, and I hate it even more when the “dental” adjective is attached to the service. Nothing gets me fired up more than seeing the “dental tax” in action!
Auto Front Office (https://autofrontoffice.com) automatically sends the patient an email after the appointment gets set ‘complete’ in your practice management software. If they don’t respond to the email, the patient gets a text message prompting them to leave feedback.
It’s a simple yet effective service that should only act as a reminder to patients that your office wants and appreciates honest feedback. You and your team should do most of the heavy lifting in person. But for those times when we might forget or drop the ball, automatic digital solutions like Auto Front Office can pick up the slack.