Growing your counseling practice through good online reviews
The most common way that a potential patient finds a counseling practice is by searching local businesses online. When they find a suitable option, they will most likely look at reviews given by previous clients. As such, it is absolutely imperative that you are encouraging your patients to leave positive yet honest reviews about their experience at your business. Online feedback will open up the doors of opportunity for your practice; they will lead to greater engagement from patients and encourage potential clients to consider your services. In order to be effective however, you need to have a high average rating and a fairly large number of reviews. Whilst asking clients to contribute to your reviews may seem like a more daunting task than to the ones you are typically used to, like writing a counseling treatment plan, they are a guaranteed way to build your online presence and improve your revenue.
Understanding the difference between a patient testimonial and a patient review
You may have heard of both patient testimonials and patient reviews, and are unsure of the differences between these. Whilst they are both very important for the growth of your practice, you need to be able to differentiate between them. A patient review is typically published on a third-party site, including Facebook, Google, or Yelp. Reviews are entirely independent from your input, and reflect a patient’s direct and honest opinion about their experience at your business. Whilst the fact that a review may be negative is a daunting possibility, having mixed reviews can actually lend a type of credibility to your business. It indicates that patients are honest, and also allows you to learn from mistakes and identify areas requiring improvement. Alternatively, patient testimonials are positive quotes given by clients that are usually displayed on a business website. With patient permission, these can be used as ‘evidence’ for the quality of your services, encouraging potential clients to book appointments with your counselors. Although testimonials are also honest reviews regarding a patient experience, they are always positive, and you have the ability to decide when, where and how to publish them.
Benefits of patient reviews for your practice
More patients than ever before are reading online reviews about healthcare businesses. But how exactly are these reviews beneficial to your practice?
To manage your reputation
Managing your reputation as a counseling business is an essential component of establishing credibility. A good feedback system will allow you to monitor reviews, initiate follow-up procedures and ensure your online presence promotes your business values. Managing your reputation also involves promoting your unique business features, including potential telehealth counseling guides or online counseling guides.
To improve care
One of the best parts about online reviews is that they indicate a patient’s honest experience at your business. By reading and engaging with feedback, you will be able to identify areas that require improvement, and work towards improving the care delivered by your practice.
To boost patient engagement
Patients want to feel like their needs are being met, and they are being listened to. By responding to reviews, you are demonstrating that you care about the patient experience, and are willing to make necessary changes.
To help you measure your competition
The healthcare industry is competitive, and it’s always a good idea to know how well competing businesses are going. With reviews, you can measure your progress with your competitors and identify where exactly they may be going wrong (or right!).
To improve patient retention
Reviews can help businesses identify the reasons behind patients leaving. You will be able to identify trends that are negatively impacting patient retention, and work to rectify these.
Collecting patient reviews: Timing is crucial
When it comes to collecting patient reviews, timing is absolutely crucial. Reviews need to come from patients that have received your services, and it is important that they are given almost immediately. The most effective time for a patient to leave a review of their experience at your business is two days after their appointment. This period of time gives them enough space to honestly think about the aspects of their session that they liked, and also the aspects that they didn’t like as much. Leaving any further time between the appointment and giving the review makes it significantly less likely to be an honest reflection of their experience. In order to encourage a review within this time frame, it is a good idea for your business to set up automated requests. A good software will allow you to generate automated review requests to be sent out 24 hours after a session, giving your client a day to formulate the response.
Ways to get reviews from your counseling patients
Now that you know why reviews are so important, it’s time to take a look at methods you can employ to get them.
Ask during the appointment
Perhaps the most obvious, yet still effective method to receive reviews is to ask your patients for them during the appointment. Preparing a client for their first appointment always involves informing them about different protocols or important parts of your practice, so directly asking them for reviews is always a good idea.
Send automated emails
Automated emails are a big part of patient communications in today’s digital world, and you should be using these to benefit your business as much as possible. If you set up automated review reminders via email following a patient’s appointment, they will be significantly more likely to remember to leave feedback.
Make phone calls
If you use phone calls for appointment reminders or other instances of communication, this is also a suitable method for asking for reviews. However, patients may opt out of receiving phone calls, so it is important you carefully select which patients to contact using this method.
Ask through an appointment card
Patients often display appointment cards in easily accessible places, so asking for reviews on these will ensure that the request is seen. All you have to do is print a number of appointment cards that have review information on them and a link to a suitable review site.
Include a reminder on your website
It is very likely that a patient will access your website prior to their appointment, so it is a good idea to have a request for reviews displayed. You may choose to include a specific landing site for reviews, or a link to a third-party page.
Ask your social media followers to participate
Social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, are fantastic ways to engage with patients and ask your clients for reviews. By publishing regular relevant content, you will be able to communicate more effectively with your clients and encourage them to give helpful feedback.
Some of your clients may prefer to receive text messages or SMS rather than phone calls, and this method of communication can be just as effective when it comes to asking for reviews. You can set up automated messages before personalizing them with the respective client’s name, and provide a link to a suitable review site.
As a marketing strategy, your counseling business may choose to distribute certain promotional materials, including pens, notepads, keyrings or cups. On these, you can include a line asking for reviews, for example “Let us know how your visit went”, or “Please leave us a review at the following site …”.
Take home message
Although asking for reviews from patients may seem like a daunting prospect, the results will be well worth it. Receiving consistent reviews will lead to higher engagement from potential patients and consequently widen your clientele. It is a good idea to establish review protocols for your staff, so they know the best ways to go about asking their patients to contribute to feedback. Hopefully this guide has consolidated your knowledge about the importance of reviews for your business, and you now feel equipped to go out and ask your patients for feedback!
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