by Trish Walraven
Photoshop is fun. You can use it to make a fake Yelp review to help illustrate a point that you’re trying to make about something else. Like a patient writing an online review of your dental practice:
Vindication, finally! Yelp lets me air the true story of this miserable experience, and no one can stop me.
First off, I had total confidence in the way I cared for my car – had the tires rotated every six months, oil changes every 3000 miles, if it was in the manual, I had it done.
About a year after I’d moved into town was when I began noticing a drift to the left (irrespective of the politics here *grin*) so I took my car into Dodgy’s Auto Clinic, which had the highest score on RateMechanics.com.
Get this! As I’m filling out some paperwork, one of the forms they’ve handed me is a “Privacy Agreement” that asked me to transfer ownership of any public commentary I might write in the future to Dodgy’s. Like this review – supposedly they now own it.
Did the red flag go up? Definitely. Did I heed the warning? Unfortunately not.
This mechanic BUTCHERED my car. Nothing feels the same. There are rattles where none previously existed, the steering wheel shimmies when I make a turn, and whenever I drive I just feel like taking a bus instead, it’s THAT BAD. They did fix the drift though, only now it goes in the opposite direction.
Just in case I was insane I took it to another shop to get an opinion about their repairs. The second place agreed that unneccessary “treatment” had happened and that it would be difficult and pricey to undo the damage.
In the end Dodgy’s did refund my money and asked that I not rip them apart online. I bet! The last thing they did as I walked out was to wave that “agreement” at me. Like it has any authority to do anything except make me mad. I have a destroyed car, and people should know the truth about this “Auto Clinic.”
So, Bring it, Dodgy’s. Bring your lawyers. I’ve got everything I need to defend my words. You want to own my words? Here. OWN EM. I now own YOU.
This is a frightening scenario for any service provider. We have a clearly upset individual that seems sincerely convinced her car was ruined by a repair shop. And just one of these unfavorable reviews can inflict massive online damage.
Now let’s take this to dentistry. You got some patients out there talking smack about the quality of your work. Not your chairside manner, not your front office person who was less than helpful about payment arrangements. We are in the heart of your business, a heart that could be ripped out by a singular disgruntled review.
The question appears in your mind: How can we protect ourselves against this sort of damage? Just do good dentistry and treat our patients with kindness, empathy, and respect? Then what? What if you’re doing everything right and a review like the one above comes up and bites you in the backside? It’s not going to go away easily.
There’s always prevention, right? A program called Dental Justice has gotten into the business of fighting Web anti-defamation. For about $1200/year you’ll have access to Online Reputation Management Contract Templates (and some other lawsuit deterrents because otherwise these are some PRICEY legal forms!). You’re supposed to have each patient sign a contract to give you control over any reviews they may post.
What I’ve noticed is that there are two problems inherent to this solution:
- Patients don’t like legal waivers. They pretty much only end up making you look defensive, like you have something to hide.
- Anyone can post a negative review about you. Even if they’ve never been to your office or work for your competition.
Essentially, you have no protection against fictitious posts because even if you are using these contracts they are useless against people who never signed them in the first place. Also if a patient did sign a contract and you “out” them publicly with a copyright takedown notice, you may be exposed to a counterclaim of privacy violation. One lawyer even ended up walking out of his dentist’s office when asked to sign a Dental Justice contract:
story: Doctors and dentists tell patients, “all your reviews are belong to us”
But wait, it gets better.
John Swapceinski, co-founder of RateMDs.com seems to have exposed a fair amount of “sock puppetry” on his website at the hands of Medical Justice, Dental Justice’s parent company. In other words, he is alleging that Medical Justice is planting false reviews, that they are doing exactly the thing that they are hired to protect against.
story: Medical Justice caught impersonating happy patients on Yelp, RateMDs
Over the course of five months there were 86 ratings submissions on the RateMDs website made from Medical Justice’s own IP addresses. Naturally, these were extremely favorable reviews, and John states that Medical Justice was doctoring the web as part of their “Review Builder Program” until the scheme was discovered and the IP addresses blocked.
Sadly, Medical Justice is not the only perpetrator here. Just look up “Online Reputation Management” in your search engine to find dozens of companies that plant favorable reviews for a fee.
Now lucky for you, patients are also wising up. Most of them realize that dentistry isn’t a commodity that is easy to rate, reviews should be taken with a grain of skepticism, and that unhappy people usually squeak louder than satisfied ones. So if you’re worried about your social media going dark, stop practicing in a bubble and give your enthusiastic patients the brushes they need to paint your practice in bold, beautiful colors. Add Yelp and RateMDs links to your followup emails to make it easy for patients to take their happy vibes online.
And please, please, don’t make them sign anything.