How to recover from a bad online review

Use online reviews as an opportunity to demonstrate your clinic’s commitment to excellence

The old saying, “You can’t please everyone all the time,” is true. Even the best clinic can encounter an unsatisfied customer who leaves a bad review online. It can trigger a surprisingly emotional reaction and cause a lot of stress, but there are steps we can take to deal with the situation constructively.

be proactive

Protect your clinic from negative reviews by making sure to claim all online business listings from sites like Google, Facebook, or Yelp. They can collect reviews for your business, even if the listing hasn’t been claimed, but you want to be notified when a review arrives to respond quickly. Proactively collect feedback, whether good or bad, before customers post it. Staff may request verbal feedback at the end of a consultation or transaction. A suggestion box, follow-up email, or automated performance management systems process can make it easy for customers to provide feedback.

Design a protocol for handling online reviews. Negative reviews tend to fall into a few categories: an emotional outburst after a difficult experience, such as euthanasia; a low rating from someone who is not one of your customers; or commonly, complaints about the bill. Make sure staff know how to handle these types of complaints and when to refer them to a manager.

Be positive and responsive

A quick response shows your customers that you’re paying attention and care about what they think, but be sure to stay calm. Don’t take criticism personally, get defensive, or attack. Stay professional, check your tone, and look for ways to fix the problem. Approach him with empathy and thank him for sharing his concerns. Remember that your response is as much for others reading your response as it is for the person who complained.

Politely identify non-customers whose records you don’t have in your system and ask them to contact you directly. Invite customers to discuss the problem with you offline, where you can have a deeper conversation about their experience and discuss solutions. Avoid justifying your answer with a lot of details. Be ready to assume your responsibilities and always direct your response towards a constructive solution.

See it as an opportunity

While negative reviews can be detrimental to your business, they also give you the opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your customers’ experience. A Harvard Business School study1 found that what customers really want is a quick and easy solution to their problem. A key strategy for building customer loyalty is to get and use feedback from unhappy or struggling customers and focus on resolving issues. By leaving the review, your client gives you the opportunity to resolve the issue, and an unhappy client who experienced an effective resolution may earn more trust and loyalty to your clinic than someone who never had an issue. . It also gives others the opportunity to gain trust in your service if they can see that you have successfully resolved an issue.

To advance

Make sure your complaints process also covers negative online reviews and that there is support for affected staff. Consider a planned public relations strategy to manage the tone of your communications, share positive stories, gain local media support, and cultivate a positive online presence for your clinic. Remember that no one is perfect, but client feedback allows us to engage and learn and provides us with the opportunity to improve our practice.

Jenny Langridge is the acting editor of Veterinary Woman, a resource encouraging women to aspire to become leaders in all areas of veterinary influence. She also works for Companion Consultancy, a British company specializing in veterinary public relations, marketing and communication.


Dixon M, Freeman K, Toman N. Stop trying to delight your customers. Harvard business review. Accessed July 11, 2022.