Tips for Managing your Aesthetic Practice’s Online Reputation

When it comes to managing your online reputation, this quote from Benjamin Franklin comes to mind:  

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one 

to lose it.”

Reputation management is the practice of influencing the public’s perception 

about a business or brand and includes monitoring, responding, and proactively seizing the opportunity to boost a positive reputation.

Did you know that 93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product or service? That means chances are that 9 out of 10 patients that walk through your door have already checked out your practice’s reviews online. 

We all strive to provide a five-star patient experience, but sometimes despite our best efforts, negative reviews show up online.

What to Do if you Receive a Negative Review? 

The first thing to do may seem counterintuitive, but it is important to remain calm and don’t respond in the moment. Don’t react. Take the time to research the legitimacy of the review and the reviewer. If you don’t recognize the patient or reported situation, the review

may be fake and there are steps you can take to flag or report the review for removal.

How to Spot a Fake Review

If you don’t recognize the patient or the situation, the review could be fake. Sadly a

large portion of negative reviews are fake, often coming from a competitor purposely

attempting to damage your reputation, or from a disgruntled past employee. Review

sites (such as Google) have options to remove a fake review.

Look for signs of a fake review such as:

  • Strange author name, strange characters, etc.
  • The author has only shared one review
  • Includes purposeful defamatory or untrue statements

Understanding Google’s “Prohibited and Restricted Content”

Google has an extensive list of Prohibited and Restricted content, available for you to

review prior to flagging a review for removal. It’s very important to understand if the

review is in direct violation of any of the items listed below, and how – as referencing the

direct violation when describing the reason for your requested removal could make the

difference between the acceptance or denial of your request. You can learn more about this here.  Here are some instructions to understand how to report an inappropriate review. Be patient as it can take several days to assess a review. If you can’t have a review removed that you feel defames (libel or slander) you or your business, you may contact your attorney to learn more about the options related to your state to file a case.

If the review is legitimate, you will want to respond, but carefully. Any confirmation on your end that the reviewer is a patient, had a procedure, or was in your office could violate HIPAA.

Best Practices to Respond to a Negative Review

1. Know what you can/cannot say in regard to HIPAA and PHI

Remember, you cannot in any way confirm in your response that the author is a

patient, has been in your office, and/or has had a procedure at your practice.

The response must be constructed in a way to generally acknowledge them,

and address practice policies or related standards that apply to all patients.

2. Don’t Defend

The usual reaction to a negative review is often a desire to defend yourself, your

practice, or your team. While this may seem initially like the right thing to do, the

adrenaline from your “flight or fight” mode may lead to a very emotionally charged,

poorly planned response.

3. Research

Take the time needed to thoroughly research the review. Again, it may not even be

one of your patients, and could be a disgruntled ex-employee or competitor, in which

case, it may require flagging the review for removal.

The review may also be a situation you were not involved in or were unaware of until

now, which may lead to the need to develop a conflict resolution process internally.

In the meantime, gathering the facts about the situation may change how you

approach the review and your response. If the review is legitimate, it’s important to understand all the facts and why the patient felt their only recourse was to take to a public forum to share their frustrations. 

4. Plan the Response

If a response is necessary, remember defensive responses only make you, your

practice, and your team looks bad and could damage your reputation further.

Also, as medical professionals we have the additional responsibility of patient

confidentiality and HIPAA laws. We must be very careful about how we construct a

response and absolutely cannot imply the author is a patient who came to

our practice, and/or discuss specifics about their procedure, pre- or post-care, etc.

5. Wait a Day or Two

Give it some time and thought, then write your response draft offline first. Read it again 

once you’ve had a chance to calm down and remove your personal emotions from

the situation. Your don’t need to defend yourself and should structure your response to

publicly demonstrate your goal toward resolving a reported issue, or to improve your

practice based on their feedback.

6. Respond with Prospective Patients in Mind. Utilize your response as an opportunity to show prospective patients that you and your team listen to feedback and care.


  • Foster an environment of open dialog and communication regarding

patient requests, and especially complaints.

  • Acknowledge their concern (generally) and apologize, then share how

you appreciate their candid feedback, how feedback such as theirs is

how your team and practice learn how to grow and improve.

  • Share what you may do differently with the information they provided, to

ensure such situations will not happen again.

  • Extend the option to communicate further, offline, and share how hopeful you

are to resolve what they reported.

Response Examples:

ISSUE: Long Wait Times


Hi Ms. Jones. We looked at our schedule on the day of your appointment and

saw you were running late as it was taking you a long time to complete your

consents. We scheduled your appointment for 10am and sent you your consents

ahead of time, but you arrived without completing them. On the text we sent

out, it states that if you don’t complete your paperwork or consents ahead of

time to arrive at your appointment at least 15 minutes early. Given it took you

close to 20 min to complete your consents, we took the patient back who had

an appointment at 10:15 am ahead of you, as they were on time and had their paperwork completed. Next time, be sure to either complete your paperwork

ahead of time or arrive 15 min early. Thank you.


Because of patient confidentiality, we’re unable to discuss any specifics about

your comments. However, we are committed to providing our patients with high

quality care, and we take all feedback very seriously. By sharing such candid

experiences, you help our team to develop new and improved processes and policies,

to ensure we exceed patient expectations in the future.

Reducing wait times is one of the most important aspects of our ongoing

practice improvement process. We understand how valuable our patient’s time

is and are constantly adjusting our scheduling policy to avoid these types of

concerns. While we have an 85% rate of running on time and are doing our best

to improve the 15%, there are some uncontrollable issues that may arise outside

of our control.

We sincerely apologize if you felt you may have waited longer than expected

during a visit to our office. Please feel free to contact us to discuss further. 

ISSUE: Unhappy with Results


Hi Ms. Smith, after talking to Dr. Jones, he said you had issues with your results

because you didn’t follow your instructions before or after your procedure. You

stopped taking your arnica and antibiotics early, and went out into the sun and

into the ocean on vacation (as seen on your social media profiles), which lead

to the blistering on your face where you had a laser, and the incisions near your

eyes from opening and not fully healing. Furthermore, we tried repeatedly to get you to come back to revise the incisions and get you on a recovery course of action for your laser, but you didn’t show multiple times and stopped communicating with our team. You also were fully

aware the laser treatment may require multiple sessions to achieve the desired

outcome, as outlined in the consents you signed. We’re sorry you are unhappy

with your results, but this is due to your lack of compliance.


Because of patient confidentiality, we’re unable to discuss any specifics about

your comments. However, we are committed to providing our patients with high

quality care, and we take all feedback very seriously. By sharing such candid

experiences, you’ve helped our team to develop new and improved processes and policies,

to ensure we exceed patient expectations in the future.

All procedures we perform not only require the appropriate selection of a

candidate, but optimal results often rely on compliance with pre- and post-procedure

instructions, proper application, or use of combined recommended

products or home care, and many other factors.

While we do our very best to fully assess each patient prior to and during their consultant visit and recommend a course of action and procedure that will address their concerns, often optimal results may require more than one session and continued collaboration and communication by both our team and the patient. If a patient feels their results don’t meet their expectations, we look at many factors and often adjust as needed.

We sincerely apologize if you feel your expected results were less than optimal.

Please feel free to contact us to discuss further.

Asking for Positive Reviews after a Negative Review

Many practices panic after a negative review when some negative reviews are

actually, normal and expected. There has been research that shows consumers don’t

trust companies with only positive reviews, and expect a few realistic reviews here or


However, having the negative review show up at the top, or even in the top three to

five positions can have a negative impact. If you receive a negative review, you should

consider structuring a campaign to remind patients to share a positive review about

their experience. It’s not uncommon for a practice to directly request loyal, long-time

patients to write an honest review to push the negative review down – if it’s

honest and an actual reflection of their experience.

If you do ask some of your loyal patients for positive reviews, or push out a campaign:

  • Ensure you only request, or send out the campaign to a few patients a

day. Having reviews populate review sites within the same time frame

may be removed or hidden by the review site.

  • Don’t ask non-patients, friends, or family to write fake reviews. This is called

“Astro-turfing” and is illegal – fake reviews can result in legal action against


Develop a Proactive Reputation Management Plan

Having a solid proactive plan in place is of course the best way to prevent negative

reviews. Some tips on developing and implementing a reputation management plan include:

  • Survey your patients – Ask patients about their experience at all points of contact

within your practice

  • Provide options for open communication – Ensure patients feel they have the

ability to communicate openly with you and your team

  • Ask frequently – Besides through surveys, teach your team to honestly ask how

patients are doing during calls and every visit

  • Ask for reviews – If a patient is happy with your practice, your team, their results,

it’s okay to simply ask them to share their experience on a public review site

  • Make it easy – Have desk cards, business cards, email signatures, SMS templates,

with QR codes or easy URL links to review sites

  • Follow up – When patients take time to write a positive review, be sure to reach

out and thank them.

Finally, if you have the budget, we highly recommend you hire a professional reputation management company specializing in the aesthetic space.