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Keys to Responding to Negative Online Reviews

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Wouldn’t it be great if every social media post or online review ever written about your senior living community wasn’t just complimentary, but heaped mountains of praise upon the community for exceptional service, superb personal attention, unparalleled quality and an unmatched level of quality care?

While we believe our communities are often worthy of these accolades, the reality is that someone, whether that be a current resident, family member of a resident, prospect, or possibly a disgruntled former employee, may not agree with the perceptions we have of our community, service and staff. If fact, some individuals may feel so wronged (real or not) by the community that they go to online reviews and social media to voice their displeasure and take a very public swipe at the community.

But what do you do when a negative post about you, your staff or the community in general surfaces? To do nothing and hope that it blows over is wishful thinking, but ultimately ineffective. While you’re waiting for the negative post to disappear, which likely will not happen without any effort on your part, scores of prospects could be viewing this negative post and be forming an unfavorable opinion about your community.

It’s important to respond to negative reviews for three main reasons:

  1. To show your audience that the community cares and values their opinion
  2.  To protect the brand reputation of the community
  3. To provide an opportunity to re-engage with the individual who has experienced a less-than-positive interaction with the community

Provided are several considerations that should be taken into account before responding to a negative review or post:

  • Turn negative comments into a positive. For instance, if a reviewer claims the food at the community dining venue was awful, respond by thanking them for the feedback and respond that the community will use that feedback to help improve the goal of excellence in all food services areas or highlight a change that might have occurred recently in offerings or quality.
  • Be careful of your tone, especially when it comes to a difference in opinion. Take the high road by maintaining your professionalism and avoid using argumentative or aggressive language that may cause the reviewer to respond in kind with even more aggressive language.
  • Avoid the temptation to go on the offensive against the reviewer, even if their statements are false, categorically untrue or are a personal attack on you or a staff member. Retain your composure and remember that your response is not just being seen by this reviewer but by all prospective residents and families.
  • Show empathy with your response. Remember, you may be responding to a caregiver who is dealing with many challenges (financial, emotional, etc.) in their support of their family member at the community. That doesn’t make it right for them to lash out at the community in a public forum, but it allows you the ability to demonstrate your compassion, responsiveness and expertise in senior living.
  • Do not reveal private information not revealed in the review. Communications must abide by HIPAA regulations and can be subpoenaed in court.
  • If appropriate, acknowledge mistakes, lessons learned and corrective actions taken to avoid future mistakes.
  • If the reviewer continues to post negative comments even after two repeated positive responses by you, take the conversation offline. Provide a phone number or email to the reviewer to have a private conversation in hopes of diffusing the issue.
  • Avoid using corporate language that makes your response read more like a templated response. Respond to the viewer in human terms that’s conversational and authentic.
  • Remember that you might not be able to change the opinion of the negative reviewer, but you might be positively influencing a host of prospective residents and their families.

Solutions Advisors believes that the best defense is a good offense when it comes to responding to negative reviews. Part of our digital strategy is to create opportunities for as many positive reviews, social media posts, testimonials, anecdotal stories and videos as possible because we know online reviews influence prospective residents’ confidence in a community, thereby helping to narrow down their choices. Contact us to learn more about our digital strategies.