|In 2008, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that nearly 80 percent of adult Internet users turned to the Internet for online information. These days, Internet users turn to social media for even more information. In addition to serving as a platform for easily accessible and sharable information, it is a platform widely used by others—a place where information on the page, like the group itself, can be endorsed and reviewed by others.The peer review element is what makes social media unique because, according to a 2011 study by the National Research Corporation, 20 percent of respondents use social media sites to make healthcare decisions and 25 percent of respondents note that the information is “likely” or “very likely” to influence them.|
Consider this your next opportunity to expand your word of mouth marketing efforts by paying greater attention to those stars of endorsement. While you can’t alter what they say about you, your health care organization can respond and even encourage positive online testimonials that boost your credibility.
Transparency or trouble?
Online review sites, even the user ratings your website might feature, can cause the proverbial ulcer with your public relations department or CEO. There is always a bad egg … meaning a less than stellar rating based on an unhappy patient or family member. Sometimes the complaint and review is justified, other times it just smarts to see a two-star rating knowing you did your best. But, Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s ethical guidelines encourage us to take the good with the bad and embrace the new age of transparency.
From bad to good
The case has been made that it is better to hear from online posters, even if a rating is poor, than not at all; it can provide valuable insight. So, make lemonade out of lemons … turn the bad reviews into opportunities for improvement.
- Start by monitoring review sites within your field to see if your organization is already being rated and you didn’t know. If so, take the time to read each comment and see if there are any hidden gems in the feedback offered. Those who posted positive comments recently will appreciate a reply “thank you” if the feature is available to you.
- Negative comments require some finesse. Engage a customer service guru on your staff to converse with raters about their poor experiences and try to improve upon the situation. It’s not much different than by phone or email … an unhappy customer can be a happy one with time and attention. Same rules apply regarding privacy and HIPAA.
- Rinse and repeat. This isn’t a one-time deal, but an ongoing effort to engage with raters and learn from their input.
Go for the gold
As your team begins to master the online review sites through frequent monitoring and engagement with raters, it may be time to consider a rating system of your own that will enhance your branded online presence.
- Begin by training your staff to build awareness of your online rating feature with your patients and customers. Hand out imprinted star pens with your website’s URL to remind them to not only provide great customer service, but that your patients’ feedback helps make them a star!
- For patients, give them a star stress relieverl or star magnet as a fun gimmick to get them to get online and give you some stars back.
- Invite patients to rate you in all your promotional material, from postcards to magnets to office banners in order to get the word out and keep it top of mind.
- And ask them to tell others! Keep the word of mouth marketing going … and going.
Online ratings can appear scary. No one likes to see a less than four-star comment, but therein lies the “shining star” of this e-newsletter … opportunity! It enables your organization to learn from its mistakes, capture star patients’ public praises and build trust all at the same time.
Bensen, Connie. Social Media Measurement & ROI for Health Care. SlideShare, 22 Mar. 2011. Web. 03 Dec. 2012.