Online reviews are one of the most significant factors influencing private practice dentistry today.
I don’t even remember if online reviews existed when I was in dental school (2004-2008). If they did, they weren’t that popular. Our training focused on diagnostic competency, the technical aspects of performing clinical dentistry, and treating human beings with dignity and compassion. These were the standards we were held to in our training, and like many I assumed that these would be the standards I would be held to as a professional in my career.
Of course I am held to high professional and ethical standards by myself, by my peers, by board, by my associations, and by my patients. In the online review era, I am held to another standard as well. Anyone with an Internet connection can go online, find a picture of me, say whatever they want about me, and rate my service and ability as a professional on the “star scale”. I used to associate the “star scale” with Ed McMahon and Star Search or reading an album review in Rolling Stone magazine. Now, when I think of the “star scale”, I think of what I do.
There’s a certain amount of indignity that comes along with a publicly available star rating system with your face next to it. It is frustrating to realize that all of my education and hard work and time and love and care in dentistry can be reduced by anyone to a star rating. It is humiliating and can make one feel powerless.
Humiliation. Indignity. Eight years of higher education sure made me arrogant, right? I know I’m not alone. How do we get over ourselves and take this seriously? By realizing that we are not powerless. By keeping customer service at the forefront of all decisions in the practice, we can take control of the online review reality and actually use it to our advantage.
In my practice, we talk about online reviews on a daily basis. We ask patients to write them every day. We read them aloud at our monthly meetings and use them to educate our team. The things people say in reviews help us to understand what matters most to our patients. Being conscious of the experience we provide patients is no longer optional. If we don’t provide excellent customer service experiences, none of our clinical training as dentists matters.