5 Steps to Respond to Negative Reviews

In our last post, we discussed the power of patient reviews for a dental clinic. Although word-of-mouth was the way to reach new patients, 84% of people now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Negative reviews tend to garner more attention, as potential patients use them to prepare for a “worst-case scenario.” 

If you receive a negative review, there’s no need to panic. This is especially true if this is one of the first ones. In fact, many people perceive businesses with both positive and negative reviews to be more trustworthy! This is due to many businesses purchasing positive reviews to boost their ranking. As a result, businesses with only positive reviews can seem more suspicious.

However, this isn’t to say that the review doesn’t need to be addressed. Follow these five steps to turn the review around and show other potential patients that your office will take active steps to make things right:


1. Evaluate Review Internally

Understanding the root of the problem is the first step to coming up with a game plan. Read through the review to get an idea of where you can start tackling the issue. Once you have identified the main concern, speak to the staff that was involved to get the full picture of the incident.

You’ll be able to come up with a better action plan, such as how to respond and the maximum compensation you’re willing to give if the issue escalates. This will also prepare you to answer any counter-arguments the reviewer may have. 

On the other hand, while spending some time digesting the situation is important, don’t take too long. According to Reviewtrackers, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.


2. Acknowledge the Reviewer and Apologize

When you start drafting your reply, thank the reviewer for bringing the issue to the office’s attention and apologize for the poor experience they had. Even if you don’t think that the office is fully at fault, doing so will help the reviewer feel acknowledged.

Example of what you can write:

  • Hello Ryan, I’m sorry that you had to wait so long after your appointed time before you were seen. We appreciate you bringing this issue to our attention as your feedback helps us do better.

Tip: Keep the apology short so that you can focus on the action you will take to regain the patient’s confidence in your dental office.


3. Don’t Make Excuses

If you find that the office was at fault (e.g. poor scheduling), don’t be tempted to make excuses for what happened. Instead, own up to the mistake and promise to do better the next time. A dental office that isn’t too proud to admit that they were wrong is seen as a positive attribute. 

People going through the reviews will see that your office acknowledges areas that need improvement rather than blame-shift. This shows that you have the patient’s best interest in mind and builds a positive impression as you are proactively trying to make amendments.


4. Offer a Solution

Sometimes an apology and explanation aren’t enough. In these situations, consider offering a small compensation or invite your patient back for a complimentary service to regain their confidence in your office.

Ideas for compensation:

  • Discount for their next service
  • Complimentary teeth whitening
  • Free gift or gift card

Tip: Offering compensation should be on a case-by-case basis. If you don’t want the compensation to be seen publicly, you can ask the reviewer to send you a direct message so that you can work out the details with them privately.


5. Take Issue Offline

Patient privacy should be taken into account when responding to negative reviews. Take the issue offline by leaving a response that asks the reviewer to contact you directly. This way, if there is sensitive information that needs to be discussed, it won’t be open to the public eye.

This also applies to cases that have a high risk of miscommunication. Speaking to the patient directly ensures that all of the patient’s concerns are fully addressed. This is also a great opportunity to show your empathy that may not otherwise translate well over text. 


If your response is crafted tactfully, not only will you resolve the issue, but you could gain an even more loyal patient. Although they had a bad experience, they also know that your dental office will go above and beyond to ensure that the problem is rectified.