Best Practices for Senior Care Facilities When Addressing Negative Online Feedback

Chris Harper

Chris Harper, Vice President of Communications, The Arbor Company

Even with the utmost dedication to resident and family satisfaction, chances are your senior care facility will still receive negative online feedback at times. Negative reviews can damage a facility’s reputation if they’re not handled appropriately, which is why it’s so important to be prepared and ready to respond promptly if you do receive a negative review.

How One Senior Living Business Addresses Negative Online Feedback

Chris Harper is Vice President of Communications at The Arbor Company, a senior living operator of 45 communities across 11 states. He explains that The Arbor Company has a plan in place and is able to quickly take action if they receive a negative review.

“We have a single person in our company who monitors reviews,” he says. “We use Reputation as our review management platform, so we get all of our reviews in one spot with daily alerts.” If the business receives a negative review, then the person monitoring reviews loops in appropriate players. That might be the operations partner, regional vice president of operations, support partners, and the company president.

“The first question we ask is do we know this person,” says Harper. “Often there’s a backstory that we already know of. Or sometimes a review comes in and no one’s heard of the person. It’s good to have context.”

Harper says that The Arbor Company responds to all reviews, but especially to anything negative. “We express our apologies and our concern that they feel the way they do and that they had the experience they did. We always say we want to know more, and we want to know how to make it better or dig into it a little bit more. We want to investigate and figure out what went wrong.”

When responding to reviews, Harper lists a contact’s name and phone number, such as the vice president of operations, inviting the reviewer to contact the person. “We want to show that we value communication as a company standard.”

Harper is quick to acknowledge that some reviewers don’t call in, but responding to a review with that offer to connect further has multiple benefits. “Our response is 50% for the person who left the review and 50% for the future buyer who’s researching,” he explains. This open response expressing a desire to help demonstrates the business’ concern and desire to support its residents and their families.

Harper notes that if the team knows the reviewer, they’ll still respond online but will also take the time to call the reviewer directly to discuss what they can do to fix the reviewer’s concerns. “This is not an opportunity to ask them to change their review,” he says. “If someone is frustrated with us and they feel like their only recourse is to leave a public review, then we’ve failed in our communication and in working with them, and we want to resolve that as quickly as possible.”

The Importance of Prompt Responses

While it’s important to take the time to do some initial research and draft an appropriate response, it’s also essential to respond to negative feedback promptly. “I think if I was frustrated and I left a negative review, I would want a response pretty quickly,” says Harper. “But we do take that pause to understand the situation from our end and make sure we’re not tone deaf.”

Best Practices in Preparing for Negative Reviews

Having a process in place to handle reviews can help your business to respond promptly and appropriately. Harper recommends walking through a mock scenario, talking through the process with your team. Determine who will write the response, who will approve the response, and who should be involved in the process.

“You’ll also need to have a monitoring solution in place,” he says. “All of the review sites like Google and Senior Advisor, they’ll email those reviews to you, but for our company, it was easier once we put a platform in place that aggregates all of that into one location.”

When responding to reviews, Harper recommends that businesses show empathy. “We don’t want to argue with them,” he explains. “Their feeling is correct. What they’re feeling is true to what they’re feeling. An online response is not an opportunity to argue.”

Harper was a panelist in the i Advance Senior Care webinar, “Rebuilding the Senior Care Industry: How to Increase Occupancy and Restore Trust.” You can watch the webinar recording now.

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