Online reviews may seem like an albatross, but they can be great sales-boosting tools if you really listen to what your patients are saying and are willing to make some simple, but meaningful, changes as a result.

Reevoo found that when reviews accompany product information, sales go up by 18%. In another survey, by iPerceptions, 63% of consumers said they are more likely to purchase from a site that has user reviews. And eMarketer reports that user reviews are 12 times more trustworthy to consumers than product or service descriptions from the company.

Yes, these statistics all refer to e-commerce, but they cannot be discounted as many prospective patients use surgeons’ websites to make buying decisions.

In today’s world, cosmetic surgeons need a storehouse of positive reviews just as much as products sold on Amazon and Etsy do. The best way to find out what your patients really think about you, your staff, and your skill is to ask.

Start by sending surveys to all of your current patients using a service that publishes these reviews online. Another way to ensure that you will receive more reviews is to encourage patients by giving them a card that explains how to post a review on each site. Also, create a companion web page that describes how to post reviews on each of these sites, and links to them. You can email a link to this page to happy patients after treatment, asking them to post a review. (Some practices choose to keep this page hidden on the site so that competitors or others can’t find it.)

What Does It All Mean?

Once you collect a good amount of review data, you can better interpret the hidden meaning by comparing and contrasting it with take-away lessons from a new survey of 40,000 cosmetic surgeries conducted by RealPatientRatings®. This data, which was mined and analyzed by a team of crackerjack statisticians from the University of California, provides easy-to-implement counsel on how to increase your bookings and surgical volume.

For starters, patients want your undivided attention—even during the most mundane part of a consultation.

The RealPatientRatings survey found that a surgeon’s attentiveness during a consultation is important. This is a big—if not the biggest—factor in determining whether a patient books a procedure with you or continues looking. Patients were 4.3 times more likely to schedule surgery if the surgeon listened carefully, even during routine parts of the intake. If your anonymous survey reveals that you are not paying attention to patients, it could be the reason why your conversion numbers are slipping.

Friendliness also matters to your prospective patients. In the RealPatientRatings survey, those who were just satisfied with the friendliness of the staff (as opposed to “highly” satisfied) were 25% less likely to be enthusiastic about their overall experience. This can be interpreted to mean that those who are just plain satisfied with your friendliness are 25% less likely to refer their friends, regardless of how amazing their new nose looks. Smile and encourage your staff to do the same—especially if the reviews state that prospective patients aren’t getting that warm and fuzzy feeling when they walk through your door.

Another pearl from the new survey is the fact that patients want cost to be discussed up front and early in the consultation process. Many practices shy away from cost questions during consultations because they feel it will be a detriment, but the new data shows that the opposite is true. Patients asking about cost are further along in the buying process. The best way to address cost is to mention payment plans and financing. When CareCredit financing was mentioned on the first phone call, patients were 17% more likely to schedule a consult.

Read your reviews, learn from them, and make adjustments where needed to fully reap the dividends of your online reputation.

Evans_DavidAbout the author

David Evans, PhD, MBA, is the CEO of Ceatus Media Group, based in San Diego. His column, “The Edge,” appears in every issue of Plastic Surgery Practice. He can be reached via [email protected].