Back when I studied over 20,000 local listings and 100,000 for my local search analysis, I found one thing to be true– veterinarians get their share of online reviews. They’re not as commonly reviewed as restaurants or dentists, but research proved they got more reviews than landscapers or physical therapists.
If you work in the veterinary industry, you’ve already dealt with online reviews. You may not have as many reviews as you’d like, but you’ve seen them come in and you’ve probably seen how they can affect your business.
You might even, as this article on PetMD suggests, detest online reviews.
Here’s a snippet from the article, detailing one vet’s experience:
“In my case, the only negative online review I ever received (that I ever came across, anyway) wasn’t even a client’s. It was a prospective client who arrived 45 minutes late for her appointment without even calling to say she was running behind. My great sin was in actually stopping to introduce myself and explain that I wouldn’t be able to see her since she was late … so that I was now late to go pick up my son. She wrote that I condescended to her. Which I’m sure I did. Rude people with entitled attitudes piss me off.
Though I hated knowing that someone so annoying would write a negative review, it’s not really a big deal. I mean, now, anyone looking for a new veterinarian will know how much I hate latecomers. That’s not such a bad thing to put out there, is it?
But not all veterinarians have it so easy. Not at all.”
I’ve done a fair bit of research on veterinary reviews, and I’ve spoken with many veterinarians about their experiences in the world of online reputation.
Your reviews aren’t the same as reviews in other industries. There’s one big differentiator for you that a dentist or a landscaper will never experience– dedicated, fiery passion.
What’s Love Got to Do With It?
I’ve read hundreds of online reviews for veterinarians, and I’ve noticed a few patterns.
I’ll discuss some more of the specifics later, but passion seems to be the big uniting factor for a veterinary clinic’s online reviews.
And that makes sense to me.
People love their pets. You love your pets. And, chances are, you probably love anyone else’s pets, too. Pet owners are passionate about animals.
When a pet owner leaves an online review, they’re genuinely trying to help other pet owners. They want to point out bad experiences and red flags. But they’re also much quicker than someone who reviews an automotive repair shop to leave a glowing, five star review.
Take this review of a Boise veterinary hospital for example:
If they feel their pets were treated right, they’ll let the world know. Not only do they want the best care for their animals, they want all pet owners to receive the best possible care for their animals, too.
They want to help their fellow pet owners.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work out in your favor. Just like any other consumer, your clients are prone to fits of irrationality. If they’re having a bad day or if something takes them by surprise, they may take it out on you with an online review.
Here’s a passage from a Veterinary News article on online reviews:
“Shawn Finch, DVM, an associate at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals in Omaha, Neb., agrees. She says that in veterinary medicine you can do everything right and, still, not everything goes well. “You can do a good job all the time and people can still get mad,” she says.
Donato [another veterinarian] gets that. “I can’t make everyone happy,” he says. “I understand we’re going to have negative reviews—that’s OK—we’ll handle those appropriately.”
Here’s an unpleasant truth about those negative reviews, though– sometimes people have valid complaints, and you’ll need to take preventative measures to address those issues.
Common Trends in Negative Veterinary Reviews
The thing I’ve noticed about negative reviews for veterinary clinics is that clients rarely complain about the actual procedures.
I never went to veterinary school, and neither did most of your clients. I would never presume to tell you how to provide care for animals. But I may be able to help you provide care for the people who bring the animals into your office.
Negative reviews seem to follow a few common threads.
Here’s an example:
In both cases, these clients took offense to how they were treated. In the second review, the client was upset that his kitten was handled too roughly, but he wasn’t upset about the treatment process or its outcome.
Here are the most common complaints I see in online reviews for veterinarians:
-Payment plans (especially for new clients)
-A perceived lack of professionalism
-Arrogance or lack of people skills
-Not bending over backwards for the client
If you see any of these complaints more than once or twice in your reviews, it’s time to address them.
Many times, your client won’t see how well you care for their pets if they think you’re treating them poorly as a person. You’re likely not treating them poorly at all– they just may not be seeing eye-to-eye with you.
For example, if you don’t allow first-time clients to set up a payment plan for services, you’ll want to tell them that up front. You also may need to discuss other fees they may not be aware of.
You don’t want to deal with deadbeat clients who may leave you a negative review, so it’s best to head them off at the pass.
I also recommend you respond to every negative (and positive!) review you receive on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Here’s an example of a clinic that responds to every single review they receive– their responses are top notch, too. I’ve learned a thing or two from them, myself.
This article provides some great examples, as well.
Now, let’s move on to the positives.
Common Trends in Positive Veterinary Reviews
I see many more positive online reviews for veterinarians than I see negative reviews.
If you take good care of a pet owner’s animals, they want the world to know. You still may need to ask them for a review, but it will be an easier sell for you than it would be for a physical therapist.
Here are the most common praiseworthy traits I found in veterinary reviews:
-Being perceived as easy to work with
-Having a flexible schedule; working with difficult schedules
-Putting scared animals at ease
-Truly caring about an animal’s well being
Take a look at this rather long review, which mentions many of those items:
This person is enthusiastic about the scheduling, the price, the efficiency, professionalism, and kindness the clinic displayed.
Reviews just like this one are all over the place.
Let’s look at one more:
This review showcases an honest, emotional response from the client. Even though it’s a positive review that emphasizes kindness, professionalism, and education, replying to this review is a delicate situation. The doctor handled it perfectly.
Responding to positive reviews like this one, where your client is wearing their heart on their sleeve, encourages more people to leave positive reviews. Pet owners are a community– more so than people who need plumbers and landscapers from time to time.
You can use pet owners’ honesty and passion to your advantage.
Use Their Honesty to Your Advantage
Veterinary reviews are unique because they’re passionate, but they’re also unique because they’re more honest and detailed than online reviews for other industries.
The people who review you will leave insanely detailed accounts of their experience with your clinic, simply because they want other pet owners to have a wealth of information when it comes to the care of their animals.
Take a look at your existing reviews, and take a look at your competitor’s reviews.
Make note of any recurring complaints you’re getting, and address them. Make note of any praise and compliments your competitors are getting that you’re not getting.
Online reviews for veterinarians contain a ton of valuable information for your business. Use that information wisely, and improve where you can.
You’re already an expert when it comes to the care of animals and, chances are, you’re pretty good at caring for people, as well.
If you pay attention to what your clients are saying in their reviews, you can make your customer service even better. If a client writes a negative review, it will probably be about how they’re treated or how they’re charged– it likely won’t be about any actual treatment you provide.
It’s up to you to prevent any issues before they make it into an online review, and to respond to every review you receive.
More so than many other industries, your clients are already telling you what they want. You can earn more positive reviews by reading, listening, and acting on that information. You have your client’s’ perspective right at your fingertips.
Thanks for reading!