You’ve put your heart and soul into building a world class veterinary practice. All the hours spent at school, all the studying, all the setbacks, all the tragedies, all the irreconcilable clients, and all the tears have finally paid off. You’re doing what you’ve always wanted to do– helping animals and helping preserve healthy families.
But how does your clinic stack up against the competition? Are you getting enough new clients through the door?
How does your practice stack up on review sites and in the search engine results?
Aside from your own clinic’s online reputation, have you looked at reviews for veterinary clinics other than yours?
I’ll get into it a bit more later, but my research shows that veterinarians get more reviews than many other professions or industries do– which means your competitors are getting good reviews! Those reviews help your potential clients make decisions about who cares for their pets, and it’s possible that you’re getting left behind.
You’re already dedicated to providing the best possible health care for animals, and delivering outstanding service to your clients. But if a potential client researches your clinic online and can’t see anyone raving about your level of care and service, you’re getting a raw deal.
Chances are, your clients love you and love your team. They trust your advice, and they know their pets are in good hands when they come to you.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of the world knew how they felt?
Veterinarian Reviews By The Numbers
For nearly every business in North America, online reviews are a fact of life. Some business owners and their marketing teams choose to embrace them, but other business owners turn up their noses and hope the whole thing will just go away.
Veterinarians are no exception.
But online reviews won’t go away– as long as there’s a world wide web, there will be reviews for veterinary clinics.
I liked this bit of realism and perspective from Dr. Sara Liddell of River City Veterinary Hospital here in Meridian, ID:
“It’s really easy to Google something now. If you have 5 or 10 reviews, and the guy 2 miles away has 50, you can imagine who your clients are going to pick. They’re in that decision making process, and what’s going to tip the scale? The only thing they have to go on is your website and your reviews. It’s not like they’re going to visit you and all your competitors’ locations, and then make a decision.”
It’s true– pet owners don’t shop around for veterinarians by going window shopping. They ask for advice from friends, and they read online reviews. Online reviews function as a 21st century update to traditional word-of-mouth marketing, and they can make or break a potential client’s interest in your veterinary clinic.
And, as I mentioned previously, reviews for veterinary clinics are booming. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Earlier this year, I completed my second annual local search analysis. Here’s a summary of my methodology and what I looked at:
- I focused my analysis on Google’s local search results, and Google local reviews, because Google is the most-used search engine.
- I captured the quantity and rating of those Google reviews for each top-10 local listing across 41 unique keywords (industries) and 146 U.S. cities.
- My statistical analysis is based on captured data for more than 1.3 million local reviews.
So, here’s how it breaks down for veterinarians:
- Veterinary clinics were the 7th most reviewed business type of the 41 industries I researched
- Veterinary clinics are tied for the third-highest overall star ratings, at 4.2 stars
- This analysis included disbursement of 38,000 reviews
So, people are willing to leave online reviews for veterinary clinics. And there’s a real bonus there, too– people love their vets!
Not only are they willing to leave you a review, but they’re willing to leave you a positive review because they like you personally, and they greatly appreciate what you do for them and their fur babies. And, if you can harness the power of those reviews?
You can edge out your competition.
Pets and Passion
Here’s my hypothesis– the big reason your clients are more willing to write an online review than they are for their dentist, is because they’re passionate about their pets.
That may seem like plain old common sense, but hear me out– if, by some misfortune, a veterinarian treats someone’s pet poorly, insults their pet, or fails to deliver quality treatment to their pet, that person may take it much more personally than when their family doctor makes those same mistakes.
Your clients are their pet’s’ caretakers. They usually see themselves as parents to those pets. They’re fur babies to many owners. When they can’t do anything for their pets, when they’re sick or suffering, they come to you. They rely on you to provide care for their pets when they can’t do anything. Those animals can’t speak up or leave negative feedback, so their owners are more than happy to act on their pet’s behalf.
I wrote a bit about this last year, in a piece called Online Reviews for Veterinarians: Listen, Respond, and Flourish.
Here’s what I wrote last year:
“I’ve read hundreds of online reviews for veterinarians, and I’ve noticed a few patterns.
…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.”
In that article, I showed examples of those glowing, five star reviews, and some negative reviews. If you haven’t much looked into reviews for veterinary clinics, those examples should quickly clue you into the type of praise (or the type of criticism) you’ll end up getting.
You can earn more reviews and beat out your competition if you embrace that passion. It’s much easier to get one of your clients to channel their passion, and the sense of relief they feel when their pet is healthy again into a review than it is for a physical therapist or a dentist.
And, if you want to keep the reviews rolling in, you should respond to them as often as you can, too.
Responding to Reviews
Business owners, marketers, and veterinarians are all very busy. Sometimes, social media and review platforms are the last things on our minds– but that’s not sustainable. If we want to fully take advantage of online reviews, we have to respond to them as often as we can.
Here’s some great advice from the American Veterinary Medical Foundation:
“There used to be a “rule” that a happy customer told one person and an unhappy customer told 10. Those numbers have increased exponentially with social media [and review sites] (particularly for an unhappy customer), and a concerted effort can reach thousands or even tens of thousands. The Court of Public Opinion is available 24/7/365, and often favors the first one to share their side of the story.
When potential clients read online reviews, it’s not just the review that matters. Your veterinary practice’s response to the customer review can have as much, if not more, influence on the perception of your practice. Your potential clients know that unsatisfied people are more likely to vent their unhappiness, so they’ll often view negative reviews with skepticism. Your response to negative reviews can make or break your opportunity to attract new clients. How does your practice perform in that regard?”
As a veterinarian, the numbers show you’re more likely to earn positive reviews than negative reviews. If you have the time, respond to every review you get. If you’re a little shorter on time you owe it to yourself to at least respond to every negative online review you receive.
Here’s my quick checklist for replying to negative reviews which you can read more about here:
- Remain calm and collected even if your feelings are hurt. If you need to, take 4-12 hours to soothe your nerves and consider the client’s perspective.
- When necessary, respond in private. Introduce yourself, apologize for any mistakes, and always remain professional– don’t get defensive. If you feel it’s warranted, offer to make it up to your client.
- Respond publicly, with politeness and professionalism. Tell your side of the story, but don’t resort to name calling tactics or drag anyone through the mud. Your potential clients will appreciate your honest, professional candor.
If all goes well, your angry client will amend the negative review or remove it entirely. But never ask or demand your client to remove a review, since that violates many review platforms’ terms of service, and could land you in hot water.
If you’re dealing with a client you just can’t please, someone who can’t be consoled, or a fake reviewer (which sometimes happens), then at least your side of the story is on the public record. Potential clients know that some people are impossible to reason with or make happy, and they’ll keep that in mind when they’re perusing your negative reviews.
On the other hand, they’ll know you offer a more personal touch to your clients when you respond to positive reviews, as well. When you can, offer personal (but not private or incriminating) details in your response, so the client knows you remember them and appreciate them.
Want to take the guess work out of responding to positive and negative reviews? Download our free review response template. It’s a simple copy & paste template that will help you along the way to responding to reviews of all sorts!
Showcasing Your Reviews
I want to end this on a quick note about showcasing your reviews. Many veterinary practices have ‘reviews’ pages on their websites, which gather a combination of client testimonials and reviews from other sites.
Your potential clients will seek out your reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other platforms– but when your reviews are right there on your website, they’re bound to take a peek there, as well.
When you showcase your reviews, make sure you don’t violate any terms of service on sites like Yelp or Facebook. Only show off reviews you have permission to use.
Reviews for veterinary clinics are a powerful thing. For you, it’s relatively easy to earn a good review and, in turn, leverage that review to influence potential clients to book an appointment.
Word of mouth is huge for every veterinarian, and we’re living in an age of digital word of mouth.
Capture your clients’ passion for their animals, and turn that passion into positive reviews. As Dr. Liddell said, you want to be the clinic with 50 reviews– not the clinic with a measly two reviews to speak of.
We live in a competitive world, so you should offload the heavy lifting onto your online reputation. Tip the scales in your favor.