The power of positive online reviews, and how to get more of them.
Robert Sanchez was dumbfounded when his parents suggested “just driving around and looking for a spot” when they were going out to dinner in pre-pandemic days. “That’s such a disconnect from how I think about choosing a business,” says Sanchez, CEO of Digital Empathy, a veterinary website design and marketing firm. Instead, he Googled “restaurants near me” on his phone and looked up their review scores.
Consumers’ reliance on online reviews is even more true in the veterinary world, where potential customers are seeking someone trustworthy to care for their beloved pets. “A review can give you an outsized advantage of getting somebody into your practice, or snuff out your advantage,” says Sanchez.
Get More Stars
To attract potential customers, you need reviews with high stars (generally 4.5 or more for veterinary general practitioners) and a thoughtful level of detail, he says.
“It’s important to score at a certain threshold, or people are not willing to go deeper and actually read the reviews,” he says. “But a 5-star review with very little written carries much less weight than one from someone who tells me about how important you are in their lives.”
Take steps to encourage customers to write those business-boosting reviews:
- Try a PIMS survey tool. Use your practice information management software to send an automated survey within a couple of hours of each customer visit, recommends Sanchez. “Survey tools can filter out the bad reviews,” he says. For example, if customers give you 4 stars or higher, a note pops up thanking them for their feedback and asking if they would mind posting the review on Google. But if customers give fewer than 4 stars, they’ll see a message such as, “We fell short and we’d like to understand why,” along with an internal form to fill out their experience so you can get in touch with them and address the situation directly.
- Email your best clients. Create a form letter with a personal request for a review to email to your best clients or after a particularly positive visit, recommends Sanchez. It should have a customizable first paragraph, a standard second paragraph that doesn’t change, and a link to write a review. (See “Sample Ask” below.)
- Prep customers at checkout. Train team members who handle checkout to mention to customers that a review request will be coming and that you hope they’ll share their experiences. “You should absolutely tee that up,” says Sanchez. Be sure to assign this task to the best communicators on your team.
- Focus on Google reviews. “Google, always Google,” says Sanchez. “In almost every circumstance, that’s where a review is important. It affects your search-engine ranking, and it’s the primary way people look at reviews.”
- Don’t offer incentives. Google’s terms of service prohibit offering anything in exchange for reviews. “They want it to be an organic system and as objective as possible,” explains Sanchez.
Gathering more positive reviews will powerfully help your business by boosting your search optimization and increasing the number of people who investigate your business once you show up in a search, says Sanchez. “Those two things work synergistically with each other to get you more new clients,” he says.
And they’ll be a good type of client. “People who take the time to go through your reviews are also likely to be thoughtful and discerning clients who will be more compliant with what their pets need,” he says. “Those are valuable clients that you want to see.”
Create a form letter to email out after particularly positive visits, suggests Digital Empathy’s Robert Sanchez, who wrote this sample:
“I’m so glad Buster is doing well. It warms my heart to see the difference that the laser therapy has made for him. I loved seeing him move around happily. I remember him as a puppy, and I couldn’t help but think he seems like his old self! You must be over the moon. I have worked hard to build a culture of taking care of every pet who walks through our doors.
Would you mind writing us a review? Your trust means a lot to us, and it’s really helpful to know what you think. It also helps us reach other pet owners and care for more pets the way we care for Buster. If you’re all right with that, just click the link below. And thank you for giving Buster such a wonderful family!”
[Add your sample review link here.]