This old phrase is truer than ever: Your reputation really does precede you—and we’re not just talking about a current patient mentioning you to a friend. These days, millions of people seeking aesthetic services turn to the internet for insights and advice, which means they’re assessing you long before they walk in your door.
Successful practices get it. They know that online reviews are the new referrals, that before & after photos confirm their skills and expertise, and that even someone who gets a personal referral will “trust, but verify” by going online to conduct further research. These growing practices understand that their online presence is their digital front door and that the quickest, most effective way to generate new business is to employ these 5 steps of successful reputation management.
1. They recognize the role of reviews
In today’s online marketplace, reviews are the gold standard of word-of-mouth marketing, a digital megaphone that spreads the word about you and your services to millions of aesthetic consumers. They’ve also been shown to have a direct and significant impact on the volume of patient inquiries providers receive. In fact, 86% of aesthetic consumers wouldn’t choose a provider who doesn’t have visible reviews.1
The following strategies can help you get more reviews:
- Ask about Internet usage on intake forms: For instance, what blogs or review sites they visited during their research, which can reveal their interest/willingness in writing their own review.
- During a post-treatment visit, ask for a favor: Explain that you hope clients will post reviews, not to tout your services, but to “pay it forward” to others considering treatment.
- Encourage clients to post on third-party review sites: Sites where aesthetic consumers gather are considered more trustworthy than proprietary websites and provide wider visibility. Plus, some offer free tools to easily request reviews.
2. They continue the conversation
The best reviews inspire conversations—other aesthetic consumers compare notes, ask questions, etc.—and everybody wins when providers participate. As this online tutorial explains, responding to reviews lets current patients know you value their opinion, invites everyone who reads those reviews to get to know you, and provides an easy way to reinforce the great reputation you’ve earned. And while you should always respond in a timely manner, waiting at least 24 hours is never a bad idea.
- Be grateful: No one has to write a review, so be sure to express your appreciation to the writer.
- Be personal: Individual answers demonstrate empathy; generic ones imply apathy (or worse).
- Be professional: Posting a review doesn’t negate a patient’s right to privacy. All responses should avoid revealing Protected Health Information (PHI) by adhering to HIPAA guidelines (if you’re unsure, consult with an expert).
3. They put negative reviews to good use
A bad review doesn’t have to be bad news, especially when you realize that the majority of complaints concern customer service issues rather than the care received. In fact, according to one study of 1-star reviews, the top three complaints concerned bedside manner (23.1%), honesty/pressure (22.3%), and office staff (17.9%).2
- Recognize areas of irritation: When a review cites aloof employees, excessive wait times, or poor listening skills, successful practices see it as constructive criticism and make appropriate adjustments.
- Reassess on a regular basis: Sharing good reviews with your staff will help them realize the role they play in providing great service. And addressing complaints will empower them to address future problems before they arise.
- Recover with newer reviews: Nothing neutralizes a poor review faster than a few newer, more positive ones. In short order, that one-off outburst will get relegated to the internet’s back pages; after three months, 73% of consumers will simply consider it irrelevant.3
4. They feature great photos
Okay, so you’ve gotten several good reviews, responded to the rare bad one, and let aesthetic consumers know that you stand behind your work. Now’s the time to actually show them some of it with a great gallery of before & after photos.
Why? Because nearly two-thirds (65%) of aesthetic consumers say they need to see 11 or more sets of before & after images before making a confident decision about a provider.1
Want your before & after gallery to get great results? Think big picture:
- Attract a larger audience with more diversity: Displaying a range of ages, anatomies, and ethnicities gives a wider range of viewers a sense of their own potential results (it also underscores your familiarity with their skin, face, or body type).
- Dispel distrust by demonstrating consistency: Even the best images can ruin your reputation if viewers suspect fakery. Forget Photoshop; for today’s consumer, even small changes between before and after—different makeup, better lighting, or a bit of jewelry—can raise big red flags.
- Protect privacy (while promoting sharing): Before posting any photos, get patients’ consent in writing and take steps to avoid revealing PHI. Facilitate further sharing by encouraging clients to chronicle their experiences online and directing them to sites where aesthetic consumers gather.
5. They offer expert insights
Every day, millions of consumers go online to research the treatments they’re interested in and choose a course of action based on what they learn. Providers who share their expertise demonstrate their interest in helping people; they become familiar faces and trusted sources, and they connect with prospective clients before the competition even realizes they’re missing out.
Think of it as Intro to Online Content 101:
- Write what you know: Offer a procedure you’re passionate about or an exciting new technology? Choose topics that align with your preferred specialties and business goals, and the benefits will accrue to both readers and your bottom line.
- Tell true stories: People like reading about other people. Referencing specific cases on your blog or website makes your content more relatable (while underscoring your expertise along the way).
- Participate in social media: Sharing your content on social channels spreads it even further. In fact, 89% of consumers say they expect providers to be somewhat or very engaged in social media.1
The real reason reputation management matters
All of the above is predicated on one incontrovertible fact: Today’s aesthetic consumers want to get to know you before they meet you. When you share online reviews, appealing images, and helpful insights, they get a better sense, not just of what you do, but who you are.
For them, your reputation doesn’t just precede you; it is you. Help them make informed, confident decisions, and your online reputation will help steer them to your real front door.
(1) RealSelf survey data, 2017.
(2) JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, Negative and Positive Online Patient Reviews of Physicians—1 vs 5 Stars.
(3) BrightLocal, Local Consumer Review Survey 2016.