Hospitals and practices are slowly recognizing that social presence is not only important, but necessary, to cater to healthcare consumers who are shopping. While the older generation of past tended to trust physician referrals and recommendations without question, younger generations are turning to the Internet to research a provider’s reputation and impression (Smith & Jones Healthcare Consumers: The New Reality White Paper). This trend is not likely to change course, so healthcare providers need to proactively build a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to THEM. Here are some first steps.
1. Ask happy patients to tell their friends.
Point people to a place where they can express their appreciation for others to find. Make it easy for them. This is an example of a sign that includes QR codes that launch the HealthGrades survey page for each physician. Facebook is another place where people may prefer posting, but directing patients to Facebook is only smart if that is where they are most comfortable. (NOTE: Young parents and the elderly tend to use Facebook for medical referrals more than young adults or working professionals). Facebook doesn’t get the attention of search engines like major review sites like Google Local and HealthGrades do.
2. Offer those small conveniences that make a difference.
Making an online appointment may not seem that important, but to a person who works a late shift and sleeps when your office are open, this is a welcomed convenience. The same holds true for downloadable forms and the ability to print one off without having to show up early just to fill it out before an appointment.
3. Create quality content that is worthy of sharing.
You don’t have to own a production company to put out something patients can appreciate. Identify a topic that might be useful to address and then record one of your staff addressing it. Keep it short, upbeat, and simple to understand. For example, a two-minute video on heart attack symptoms for women (and another for men) might be a wonderful video to release around Valentines Day to share with elderly loved ones… especially if you include a checklist to refer back to.
4. Engage with the public regularly and don’t neglect your social pages.
Too many healthcare entities set up Facebook or Google+ pages and then expect the pages to run themselves. The point of a social presence is to have two-way communication. Be generous with thank-yous when someone expresses appreciation, congratulate friends and community members when they are recognized, and don’t be afraid to address a negative comment with sincerity then it is deserved. Medical facilities are only as good as the people who work inside, so celebrate and recognize each one as you would a member of your family. Share those celebrations with your local community.
I love the start of a new year because it is a time to throw my social predictions into the hat for later reflection. This year, I’m going against the grain of most predictions. I’m also looking a bit further into the future with predictions #6 and #7. Agree or disagree?
“Return on Investment” will be measured in much looser terms.
Digital marketing isn’t the mystery it was a couple of years ago. There is no doubt that companies, brands, and even hospitals have to be social in order to compete in today’s market. As 2013 rolls out, CEOs will begin to accept that some benefits of social presence aren’t immediately realized and that attempting to measure ROI wastes time and money. Marketing professionals will finally be able to get down to business. Don’t get me wrong. Marketing companies will develop measurement tools that do just about everything in an attempt to hold onto the market, but CEOs will be tired of pretending they see the emperor’s coat.
Social be incorporated into many departments and roles.
We will see a big surge in job descriptions calling for knowledge of social platforms. Why? Many more companies will choose to manage social presence in-house in an effort to cut costs and integrate social into multiple areas of a company. Social strategy will no longer be a Lone Ranger housed in the marketing department. Incorporating social into all facets of a company will be a growing trend as we start breaking down the silos and realizing all that is at ou fingertips.
Text-only interaction will seem naked and slowly fade away.
Just take a few seconds to fly through your Google+ stream, Facebook page or Pinterest page. What catches your eyes and interest? A picture is worth a thousand words, so companies will start to focus on communicating concepts through photos and video. The accompanying text will become secondary, focusing on search engine optimization as much as content.
Mobile sites and phone apps will no longer be an afterthought.
Smartphones are the wave of the PRESENT. Last year, smartphone use in China grew 150% (Pew/Nielsen research). The US is on the same trend, reporting that in mid 2011 there were already more mobile phone accounts than people! Half of these accounts were smartphones. Since then, there has been a steady upward trend of dumb phones being traded in for smart phones. The writing is on the wall (or should I say mobile wallpaper), so companies that want to stay visible will need to accommodate the mobile customer.
Hospitals and practices will start using social technology.
As healthcare providers are forced to care for more patients with less money (especially where ACOs form), they will turn to social technologies. They will start to use these tools to educate and inform patients, and to communicate better in hopes of improving patient satisfaction scores.
We are just starting to realize all the knowledge that can be gained from tracking people online. Google impressively predicted the flu outbreak and now everyone is imagining the possibilities. Businesses that lose social marketing business will turn to data collection and analysis as a new service. Information will be tracked and sold at a premium to predict all kinds of trends and responses.*
Privacy will have to be bought.
It’s no secret that our privacy is for sale, as sites like Facebook and Google track our moves and sell our data to the highest bidders. Built-in private browsing and permission prompts won’t be enough. We will have to purchase apps and gadgets to assure our privacy is safe. We will have to pay to block our whereabouts and encrypt our activity to lock down our personal information much like we subscribe to antivirus software today.*
* may be 2014 before we see anything fully baked.
Handling negative social media isn’t so frightening once you know what to do. Social media nightmares don’t come from bad comments. They come from bad responses. So when I ran across a post titled “How To Deal With Individuals Who Threaten a Social Media Attack On Your Brand,” I was excited to see what advice the blogger would give. To my disappointment, she didn’t really give any good advice — just “look on the bright side” happy talk. I decided to pick up where she left off and give some pointers on handling social attacks.
When all is well …
Even when you’re getting nothing but praise, you should proactively monitor your brand.
- Stay present. Assign tasks of reading and responding on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, the website, and other sites to various employees and emphasize that it is the most important 20 minutes of their day.
- Monitor your brand. Set up google alerts, twilert notifications, and any other free/paid brand monitoring tools you decide work best for you. Know what others are saying about your company, your brands, and your competition even when they won’t speaking directly to you.
- Have a process in place. Make sure everyone is on the same page about how to respond to both negative AND positive comments. People who praise appreciate a response. And those who like to stir the pot tend to stir harder when they aren’t given the attention they think they deserve.
Handling customer complaints …
This is a case where time truly is of the essence.
- Respond immediately. Don’t let any time go by once a complaint is posted.
- Say you’re sorry. You don’t have to apologize for your service or your product, but you can always apologize for bad feelings.
- Take it offline. If you can’t resolve it with a simple offer to refund or replace, try to take the discussion offline. Ask the person to privately provide contact information so you can resolve the issue more effectively, and then contact them immediately. If they refuse to connect offline, don’t panic.
- Assess expectations. Before you offer any solution you should ask, “How would you suggest we make this right?” This puts your customer in the position of offering a solution. In many cases, the solution they expect is less than you might be prepared to offer and provides a chance for you to go above and beyond.
- Validate the person. You may or may not be able to meet their expectation of a refund or product remodel, but validating the value of the complaint can go a long way. Let the customer know that their feedback is appreciated and will be forwarded to the right people.
- Offer a solution. Propose the best solution for the situation and address with compassion any expectations you cannot meet (such as a refund or replacement). Sometimes bending the rules for a happy customer is more valuable than making an enemy for life, so weigh your options.
- Encourage positive feedback. Whenever a customer expresses gratefulness in how a situation is handled, take the opportunity to ask them to tell a friend, post a review or positive comment. Let them know people often only take the time to post when they are unhappy and forget that positive comments make your day. If they already left a negative comment online, don’t be shy about asking them to follow-up with an update (or even deleting the negative comment if it is in your best interest).
- Confirm resolution publicly Don’t leave any complaint appearing unresolved. Go back to the original post and respond with something like, “We hope you enjoy your replacement bike. Thank you for contacting with us.” This shows the rest of the world that you attempt to be fix the problem. Even if the person responds negatively, you have shown that your company tried to be fair. In some cases, you may even post a response to the bad publicity like, “We’re sorry you aren’t happy with our offer to replace your bike. We try to keep our customers happy.”
Responding to negative reviews …
You can handle most negative reviews in the same way you handle a negative post, with a few modifications.
- Claim your business. You can’t respond to reviews if you haven’t claimed your site. When you claim your site, provide your website url and contact information to make it easy for people to reach you privately.
- Respond to the review. Many review sites only allow you to post one response. When response is limited, craft a response that proposes a reasonable solution to the complaint and point them to a way to get in touch with you.
- Ask for a better review. If you are able to connect with the poster and resolve the issue, ask that they update the negative review or delete it. If neither is possible, they may be able to add a follow-up comment letting people know you responded fairly.
Whether you are a restaurant owner, independent consultant, or health care professional, you should view social media as an opportunity to showcase your likable qualities. People are going to talk about you whether or not you respond. Responding effectively, though, can make all the difference in the impression you leave.
Related articles on handling bad PR:
SearsKilledMyDog.com: The Anatomy of a Social Media Nightmare Averted – A Case Study
“What NOT to do”: Learning from epic social media failures
When I am shopping for a doctor, I always google the specialty and the names of physicians who have been recommended. I want to know what other people are saying and I want to get a “feel” if that doctor is a right fit for me. Negative comments aren’t always negative… Surprised by that statement? Let me explain.
Back before the internet age, I was desperately searching for a new OB/GYN a month before my due date to deliver my first child. My then OB/GYN had just told me he would be inducing me because I had no experience having babies and his many years of delivering babies gave him the right to schedule my birth around his vacation plans. So when a nurse said there was one exceptionally popular doctor that she was a bit uncomfortable with because of his willingness to allow mothers-to-be to deliver babies in their own creative ways, I wanted to know his name. Nearly in tears, I called him and he saw me the next day. Four weeks later I delivered a healthy baby in under an hour with no medications. I went on to deliver two more over the years, and I never forgot how that one comment lead me to the most amazing and significant physician in my family’s life (other than my husband).
Today, this kind of information is all over the internet. People are much quicker to post negative comments than positive ones. So why don’t more physicians regularly google themselves? And more importantly, why don’t they get their names out there so the rest of us can learn about them? I recently read through some statistics from case studies conducted by Dr. Sikorski. They were eye-opening.
100% of patients googled doctors when they were considering elective procedures, or had been referred to a specialist.
A hospital realized their less-than-appealing doctor reviews were over 4 years old. When they had new reviews in place, the hospital immediately saw a 20% increase in patients.
Advertising costs decreased by average of 50% while case volumes increased by average of 120% every time the doctors were featured as opposed to the hospital/practice brand
I spent the better part of yesterday searching for a new primary care physician who was knowledgeable in bio-identical hormones. My experience echoed the above stats. Four physicians had reviews posted but they are all dated prior to 2007 (a lot of good that does me). The rest had no digital footprint besides the practice name and address.
In today’s age of social media, physicians shouldn’t count on patients finding them and booking appointment. They should be out there educating us on when we should seek them out, telling us why they are the right choice, and giving us resources to keep us on track with healthy lifestyle choices. Is that too much to ask?
Check out this Pediatric website.