Protecting your Veterinary Hospital’s Online Reputation

0 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in Business Info, General, Industry Trends, Websites on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011.

It’s hard enough to build your veterinary hospital’s brand without having to worry about various rock-throwers attacking your hospital’s reputation on the Web.

The growth of online consumer communities means anyone can undermine your hard work to build a positive brand for your veterinary practice. The vast majority of pet owners look online for a veterinary hospital and they rely on others’ opinions when deciding where to go.

Satisfied clients of your veterinary practice will rarely go out of their way to let others know they’re happy. Yet, those with a nit to pick, no matter how small, tend to go out of their way to share their dissatisfaction. These days, they do so most often through high-profile online forums.

Key people who can hurt your practice’s online reputation include:

  • Customers who feel poorly treated;
  • Disgruntled employees seeking to air their grievances publicly;
  • Unhappy vendors with unresolved disputes.

Negative reviews and comments about you and your hospital are likely to turn up on websites such as,,, and many more. They also can be found on blogs, Facebook, and a host of other social media websites.

In one month, received 41 million visitors browsing through more than 15 million reviews. Readers then added comments to the reviews. That’s a lot of opinions.  (Source: )

You need a defense against all of this online chatter. Allowing negative reviews about you or your practice to go unnoticed is a huge mistake — especially those that are hyperbolic or untrue.

What You Can Do

You may feel overwhelmed by the task at hand, but there are concrete steps you can take to protect and enhance the online reputation of your practice. They include:

Establish an Online Reputation Management Process: Online Reputation Management should not be a haphazard, ad hoc activity for your practice. Whether you are a single-doctor veterinary hospital or a multi-department specialty center, you need to establish a protocol for monitoring and reacting to negative reviews and comments.

Your response needs to be appropriate and proportional to what has been said. Don’t react emotionally or risk inflaming a grievance and starting a public argument. Instead, focus on resolving the conflict and removing the offending comments.

Consider Hiring an Online Reputation Management Firm: Most veterinary hospital owners are too busy to manage these matters on their own. Rather than neglecting your reputation, consider hiring someone to help. There are professionals who have the technology and knowledge to monitor the Web for mentions of your practice. They also have the relationships and skills to see that negative reviews and comments are removed, or at least dulled. Fees vary widely depending on the depth of service, as well as the size and scope of your practice. Monthly charges can range from $20 to $300, and even as high as $15,000 per year, so shop around.

Consider Purchasing Online Reputation Management Software: There are several good software products on the market. Tools include,,, Blog Patrol, and They are designed to conduct thorough searches of the Internet for mentions of specific tag words, and then report what is found.

Seek Out the Site Administrator: If a review is posted on a site such as, let the administrator know when you are displeased. Make it clear why you would like to see the problem addressed. Offer a succinct and accurate solution. And again, seek resolution, not retribution. Remember, these sites depend on accurate and credible reviews to remain successful. If reviews are mudslinging contests, consumers will go elsewhere for information. Through positive and productive communication with the administrator, you are helping to maintain the integrity of their website.

Be Honest: Do research into why the client felt mistreated. It may be that he or she has a point. Offering an apology and a discount or credit may smooth out rough feelings. Your efforts may lead to a revision of the review that positively reflects your efforts.

Handle the Issue Privately: Though there are exceptions, it is in your best interests to try and manage the issue privately. A string of charges and counter charges, even a courteous public airing of the issue, is not in your best interest. If you need to respond publicly, keep to the facts, be honest about the issue, and plainly seek positive resolution. If you are to blame, apologize. If the review is inaccurate, state your view without embellishment. Readers are usually savvy enough to see your point of view.

If You Respond Publicly: If the site administrator or the person who wrote the review refuses to talk with you or remove the review or comment, respond in the comments section. Again, be polite, succinct and honest. Remember, you are not just addressing the negative comment, but all of the people who read what you have to say.

In The Case of Blogs: Blog owners and writers also depend on credibility. If they get it wrong, they are most likely to correct a misstatement. Reputable blogs enforce rules of honesty and integrity in their comments section and remove comments that are dishonest or over-the-top.

Receiving a negative review doesn’t feel good, especially if there is some merit to it. Yet, these are learning opportunities. The point is to sharpen the appeal of your practice and improve your brand. If people consistently complain about your website, listen to them and fix it. If they complain about your service, improve how you handle clients.

The only way to accomplish this is to know what is being said about you and your veterinary practice and to build an online reputation that supports your brand and attracts new customers.

NOTE: This is the first in a series of articles about Online Reputation Management. Watch for additional in-depth articles on this topic during the next few weeks.

Article Written and Copyright © by
Mark Feltz, DVM

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