Best Practices in Handling Negative Feedback During the Pandemic

Martha Cook, vice president of public relations, The Point Group

With the stress and unpredictability of the pandemic, senior care facilities will likely receive at least some negative feedback from residents and families. Some of this feedback may be for circumstances and situations outside of the facility’s control. Emotions are running high, but it’s essential that facilities establish a deliberate plan to best handle this negative feedback.

Martha Cook is Vice President of Public Relations at The Point Group, a marketing and communications company that specializes in senior living. She shared some excellent advice to help facilities navigate negative feedback and make the most of the opportunities that feedback does provide.

Developing a Response Plan

It’s always important for a business to have a plan in place that outlines how it will respond to feedback – both good and bad. That plan needs to outline basics like how the business will monitor feedback, who is responsible for addressing feedback, and what the response procedure and best practices are.

Cook notes that it’s essential for facilities to proactively monitor their social media accounts, as well as other online channels like Google, Yelp, and She notes that feedback can often be categorized by a topic area, like comments about staff turnover or bad food. In these cases, a business can prepare responses to each of these topic areas. These responses can be customized as needed, but having basic content to work with allows a business to respond quickly.

A facility should also identify who should be the point of contact if a complaint comes in via phone. “In most cases, I’d recommend a single point of contact, such as an executive director, with a back-up,” says Cook. “And be sure your staff know how to handle a complaint call when it comes in, including how to respond to the individual and how to quickly and efficiently direct them to the appropriate point of contact.”

Best Practices in Responding to Feedback

When responding to negative feedback in any form, including phone calls and online reviews, Cook advocates for timeliness. She recommends that a business stay concise in its response. “Don’t overshare, appear defensive, or reveal any personal information about a resident,” says Cook. “Additionally, be sure to thank the individual who left the review and directly address the issue, whether through a solution or by taking the conversation offline.” If taking the conversation offline, a business should provide the name and phone number of a contact at the community who can further address the review.

Going the Extra Mile

Transparency and over-communication go a long way in helping businesses handle negative feedback. “During the pandemic, the communities I work with proactively communicated when COVID-19 was identified in the community, squashing the rumor mill that spreads like wildfire and can potentially result in negative feedback,” explains Cook. In those situations, residents and family members received letters, emails, and personal phone calls from community leaders. Facilities posted regular communication from their executive directors on the business’ website homepage, while also using the business’ social media pages to provide updates.

Cook notes that there’s also opportunity to share positive stories coming out of senior living communities. Whether those are stories of staff going above and beyond to help residents stay connected to loved ones, or innovative programs that the community has developed for residents, those stories are worth sharing with the press. They can help to counter any negative feedback that is received and provide some good news amidst the many other more negative stories in today’s news.

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