July 2019

IN THE PRACTICE

Reputation management
Lead the conversation or the internet will


by William Rabourn Jr. and Chase Rabourn

Once heavily reliant on one-on-one interactions with providers, modern patients are now turning to digital conversations to research their providers and whether they can offer the best eyecare. Without an updated reputation management strategy, ophthalmic businesses risk being omitted from the dialogue, allowing others to speak for and about them unchecked.

Who is the modern patient?

Due to an abundance of online resources and social media platforms, it has never been easier for patients to find information they need from anywhere. Whether with a computer, tablet, or smartphone, patients are taking advantage of the digital convenience. Research conducted by the Dallas Children’s Hospital shows that 85% of American consumers read online reviews before making decisions about a healthcare provider. Additionally, 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means that before patients even request an appointment, many have access to information that enables them to form impressions of a practice and doctors without meeting them. Such digitally savvy patients are more involved and more informed. They challenge an ophthalmic business to ensure it is not only present for the online conversation shaping its professional reputation but leading it.

Issue with many of today’s reputation management strategies

Ophthalmic businesses need to formulate a reputation management strategy that complements the social habits of today’s consumer. Many ophthalmic businesses already employ some kind of strategy to shape the way potential and current patients perceive their brand. The issue is that most of these strategies are built to operate in the pre-digital environment.
When there were limited channels of communication for practices and their patients, practices could craft a respectable brand image by relying on classic marketing and advertising tactics (print, TV, radio) and happy patient word of mouth. A practice’s longevity, in addition to the perceived respectability of its people, were among the main factors influencing reputation even more than they do today. This is, in part, why it took so long to form professional reputations in the past. Similarly, it took time to tarnish under negative feedback.
As social media platforms and review sites have opened new lines of communication, traditional reputation management strategies have become insufficient. Today, ophthalmic business reputations are built predominantly online by leveraging the power of social media, review sites, and a strong overall digital presence. While business longevity and staff respectability are still persuasive points, a perceived better overall eyecare experience is even more enticing for potential patients. Additionally, while the time it takes to build a successful reputation has shortened for those practices effectively leveraging digital tools, the possible decline of a reputation is accelerated as well. Look at some of the established airlines in the news over the last few years. One story about a passenger treated poorly by an airline employee is shared on one social media platform and suddenly the company hemorrhages millions. The upside is that by actively and aggressively managing their own digital reputations, these airlines were not immediately bankrupt by the loss. Reputations may be more delicate than ever before, but businesses also have more ability to respond to their naysayers and publicly highlight attractive strengths.

Where ophthalmic businesses should speak up online

An ethical ophthalmic business cannot silence what others are saying about it online, but it can appease angry patients and build trust by speaking up at the right times and places. Keeping track of the right time and place to speak up can be daunting without assistance. One of the best ways to keep the conversation from spiraling out of control is to invest in quality reputation management software. There are multiple options available, all with similar services, but the best will always provide the following services:
• Monitor all review sites, such as Google, Facebook, Zocdoc, WebMD, Yelp, Vitals, Healthgrades, and Rate MDs.
• Send the business immediate notifications once a review is posted about it, allowing for a quick response from the business (conflict resolution if the review is negative or a “thank you” to positive reviews).
• Collect analytics to provide an overall grade/ranking of the online brand (A+ through F, 1–5 stars, etc.) based on the business’ reviews from each website and to show from which sites the reviews are coming most often.
In addition to monitoring reviews with software, an ophthalmic business that regularly engages with followers on social media will build relationships, trust, and credibility, all of which help practices retain current patients and attract new ones, leading to new business.

Lead the conversation

Renowned businesswoman Elizabeth Arden once said that repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers. Ophthalmic businesses must be aware of what is being said about them in the place that reaches the widest audience. They must join that online social arena to manage their reputation effectively, directing the dialogue in a positive direction. The ease in which this is done varies from business to business, and not every practice will have the necessary amount of time available to dedicate to monitoring reputation management software and regularly creating new content for social media and keeping the website up to date. Regardless, someone has to. Whether it involves creating a new position within the practice or outsourcing to a specialist, it is time for ophthalmic businesses to get social.

Contact information

William Rabourn
: brabourn@medcgroup.com
Chase Rabourn: crabourn@medcgroup.com

About the authors

William Rabourn
Founder and managing principal
Medical Consulting Group
Springfield, Missouri

Chase Rabourn
Digital marketing manager
Medical Consulting Group
Springfield, Missouri

Reputation management Lead the conversation or the internet will Reputation management Lead the conversation or the internet will
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