Reputation, reputation, reputation

shutterstock_229841482Jonathan Fine points out the importance of protecting your reputation online.

‘Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving’, said Shakespeare. Quite. But it matters in business.

The practices getting most complaints aren’t doing bad dentistry, they’re getting them because they aren’t communicating properly.

So what do you do once you get a complaint? It depends on how it comes in. Complaints over the phone or in person shouldn’t be a problem as long as you listen and take steps to make them happy. But you know this, because you are obliged to have a formal complaints procedure.

Damage limitation

The real problems start when you get a bad review online or, worse, a hateful one. It’s public – you can’t just erase it, and this immediately becomes an exercise in damage limitation.

The best you can do is see it quickly and take it offline in a transparent way, with a reply to the effect of, ‘We are sorry you feel our services didn’t meet your expectations, can we call you to discuss how we might fix this?’

Shockingly, just 38% of online complaints receive a response, according to the Dutch survey agency TNS NIPO. The success of the response is determined by three factors:

  1. The speed of the response time
  2. The quality of the solution provided
  3. How the response is provided.

If you’re really unlucky, a disgruntled patient will notify a local or national newspaper.

Protect your rep

Take a story published by Mailonline on 4 July. ‘Woman, 28, wins £35,000 payout after dentists failed to spot gum disease that means she will lose almost half her teeth’. Here two unconnected practices in different counties made the same misdiagnosis on the same patient, which underlines my earlier point – practices that get complaints don’t necessarily do worse work, they’re just worse at customer service. Surely there was a way forward for both practices here that didn’t include being featured in a negative story on the world’s largest news website.

Both practices settled without accepting liability and one of them was taken over by Oasis in the meantime, prompting it to make this statement: ‘As a matter of course the Oasis clinical team undertakes stringent quality reviews of each practice we acquire, which contributes towards our 100% compliance record with the Care Quality Commission. We provide regular and ongoing clinical training for all of our dentists across the UK to ensure these high standards are maintained.’

Not bad but, if you’re an independent practice, statements like this can’t be put out off the cuff according to the whims of your practice manager; there needs to be an agreed protocol in the file so no mistakes are made. If you’d like to put a reputation protection plan in place for your practice, you need three things:

  • Real-time notification of negative comments online – so you get to read them immediately
  • Action – a swift reply
  • Monitoring of the reply’s effect – on most occasions the negative comments will end there.

If you’d like a protocol for your practice, get in touch and I’ll talk you through Fine Company’s reputation protection service.

For more information, email [email protected], call 07860 672 727 or visit

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