With the digital revolution of addiction treatment, clients and their loved ones are researching their drug and alcohol treatment center options online–which includes reading reviews. Negative reviews about your drug and alcohol treatment center may sting or frustrate you, but it’s important to not take them too personally. Addiction treatment is an emotional field. Some clients aren’t ready for treatment, and some loved ones can’t accept that treatment is not a guaranteed “fix” for addiction.

If your facility is truly committed to providing the best possible clinical care, don’t let a bad review derail you. Your addiction treatment facility provides a crucial service that can change someone’s life. Potential clients deserve to have the information they need to make a decision.

Online reviews can also give you insight into your clients’ experiences at your facility. Those reviews become part of your program’s online presence, and can attract new clients. Both good and bad reviews can work in your favor–if you handle them right.

The Power of Online Reviews

More and more people each year are reading online reviews on a regular basis. These reviews can play a major role when people make decisions–about eating out, hotel options, or even doctor’s offices. If someone searches for an addiction treatment center and comes across your facility, online reviews give them a sense of your facility’s reputation.

BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2016 evaluated how current consumers are reading and using online reviews of local businesses, revealing that:

  • 92% of consumers read online reviews.
  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business.
  • Positive reviews make 74% of consumers trust a local business more.
  • Negative reviews make 60% of consumers not want to use a business.

It’s clear that online reviews are important. So, how should you handle them?

Treat Reviews Like Face-to-Face Interactions

You wouldn’t ignore a comment from someone speaking to you, and it can be equally rude to ignore a client’s commentary online. Whether the person is giving you a compliment, criticizing your program, or saying something seemingly trivial, you would always listen and politely respond to someone who’s speaking to you. Handle online reviews of your drug and alcohol treatment center with the same respect:

  • Be polite and address the reviewer by their name.
  • If they’ve left a positive review, thank them and note something specific in their review that you appreciate.
  • If they’ve left a criticism, apologize, acknowledge their concerns, and respect their feelings.

Remember: unlike face-to-face interactions, these reviews and your responses are publicly viewable to anyone at any time. Every response that you give (or don’t give) reflects your treatment program. It leaves an impression on potential clients, the majority of which are reading those reviews. This is why it’s best practice to respond to every review–both good and bad.

Respond to Reviews, Help Your Facility Grow

Responding to your online reviews shows potential clients that you are attentive, that you truly care about your clients, and that you are always working to provide the best services. It makes your program feel more human and welcoming. Making the decision to attend addiction treatment or send a loved one isn’t easy, and choosing a treatment facility is stressful. You need to gain the trust of potential clients who are looking into your facility.

Many potential clients will form their opinion of your facility based on reviews they read. By responding, you have stake in the image that those reviews portray of your brand. The reviews of your facility and your responses exist online, which means they both affect your search rankings. If you reply with SEO tactics in mind–using your facility’s name and appropriate keywords–it’s an opportunity to can increase your online visibility.

Capitalize on Positive Reviews

Positive reviews are going to naturally work in your favor. Remember, most people (84%) trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation, and the majority of people (74%) will trust your treatment program more if they read positive reviews about it. It’s common courtesy to thank the reviewer and maintain a good relationship, but you’ve also got to make the most of that review.

A positive review will do very little for you if no one sees it. So, optimize your response with relevant keywords:

  • the name of your treatment program or facility
  • a term like “addiction treatment,” “substance abuse treatment,” or “rehab”
  • the location of your facility

Responses that include these keywords will make those positive reviews more likely to show up when someone searches for treatment in your area.

The content of your response is a marketing opportunity. If a client is thanking you for your help, give more details about the positive aspects of their experience and your program. Talk about new features of your program. These details can entice potential clients. Finally, always show that your program is personable and caring–ask the client to stay in touch, invite them to alumni events, wish them the best.

Lessen the Blow from Negative Reviews

Criticism and negative reviews are going to happen. The worst thing you can do is ignore them. Letting complaints go unaddressed leaves an unsettling impression on potential clients, and can discourage them from trusting your facility. Responding to a negative review is a chance for you to mend fences, and improve your online reputation.

Rather than getting defensive, acknowledge their feelings and apologize that their experience did not match up to what clients typically experience at your facility. This is still an opportunity to market your program’s good reputation and its assets. Keep responses to negative reviews short and sweet. It’s best not to upset a reviewer more.

The best thing to do is provide more direct contact information–like a phone number or email–so you can fully address their concerns in private. Most importantly, do not include your business name or important keywords in responses to negative reviews! This will help to keep their search ranking lower, so they’re less visible online.

The Best Way to Get Reviews: Ask

The most effective way to minimize the impact of those negative reviews is to get more positive reviews. Even if you don’t have many negative reviews, getting more positive reviews is always a good thing for your treatment program. So, how can you get those?

Truly, the easiest way to build a strong portfolio of online reviews is to just ask. The same BrightLocal survey found that, when consumers are asked to leave a review, 7 out of 10 of them will do so. Ask clients and family members who have had a good experience with your program to leave reviews on social media pages or other sites. These reviews are of the most powerful forms of marketing for your treatment program–it’s up to you to hone the power of those reviews, by actively monitoring and responding to them.

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    Tim Stoddart

    Tim Stoddart is the CEO of Stodzy Internet Marketing. He lives in Nashville with his wife and hit adorable pitbull, Alice. Tim loves to write about digital marketing and personal growth. You can learn more at TimStodz.com

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