No business is ever immune to the occasional bad review. In the not-so-distant past, dissatisfied customers would simply not return. Now they have the power to vent on social media and digital channels. And veterinary centres are no exception. In addition to the damage to our personal reputation or that of the centre, bad online reviews and cyberbullying are major causes of stress that can lead to burnout.
How negative comments on social media affect us
A misunderstanding, a disagreement on the price, or simply because the customer’s expectations have not been met are circumstances that can become a negative review on Google or any social network. And that can spell disaster for our business. Ignoring criticism can be tempting, but it’s risky. A small problem can be solved, but if it snowballs, it can totally get out of hand.
Negative comments on social media can be directed at the facility as a whole or at a particular worker. When they become personal attacks, they cause profound stress to the veterinarian or veterinary nurse that’s been targeted. If they persist, they contribute to the emotional burnout of the affected person and can, over time, provoke severe mental health conditions such as anxiety, low self-esteem or depression.
Personal attacks on a veterinarian or veterinary nurses on social networks cause a lot of stress to the victim and can lead to severe mental health disorders.
Turn a bad review around
Positive reviews from satisfied customers help you expand your customer base. True, isn’t it? Well, although it may seem counterintuitive, bad reviews can also convince new clients of the professionalism of our centre and the staff involved in the review.
Let’s help you “turn the tables” on a negative review and turn it into something positive.
- As soon as the negative comment is spotted, reply to the comment politely and apologize for the bad experience and any unmet expectations. Insist that it’s an unusual situation and that we want to have more information about the problem, but divert the conversation to a private chat. Provide a contact and a time slot to be reached easily. If you can identify the customer through their review, reply online that they will also be contacted privately.
- Look into what may have happened and listen to the customer to understand their point of view paying attention to the main emotion behind the complaint. And if it’s impossible to establish direct contact, at least there will be an online record of your commitment to resolving the situation (this commitment is exactly what potential customers value when they read a bad review).
- Be careful with the information you provide publicly. Talking publicly on the Internet about issues related to patients’ illnesses or treatments may violate European Data Protection legislation. Never give out confidential information in your reply.
You may be surprised to see how personal and thoughtful responses increase the likelihood of resolving these problems. Personalised attention to a review makes all the difference and a receptive client tends to like this kind of treatment, returning to the centre with a new attitude. With some luck, you may be able to get them to update or remove the negative review.
What to do about cyberbullying
All veterinary centres suffer, at some point or other, the bad experience of having to deal with an aggressive or rude client. There are those who shout in the waiting room, get angry with the receptionist and may slam the door on their way out. And they won’t be satisfied with leaving it at the tantrum. They will write a negative review all in capital letters to show their anger and recruit their circle of family and friends to bombard the networks with negative reviews.
There are also cases of bullies who have no connection to the business at all. These are people who, because of their personal beliefs, out of a desire to provoke fires in the networks or simply out of boredom, dedicate themselves to insulting the veterinary collective indiscriminately.
What to do in these cases?
- If the attack is by private message. The best thing to do is to ignore it — do not reply, and block the contact.
- If it is cyberbullying on social networks, always reply with calm and positive language, based on the facts and request that the behaviour ceases.
If the attack continues, first collect all the evidence (screenshots, recordings of audio messages). Then block all profiles being used by the cyberbully to prevent further attacks. Once this is done, contact the report centre or moderator of the platform in question so that they can take action. And be patient, as this takes time. Also seriously consider taking legal action.
Cyberbullying of veterinary facility employees motivated by their work is intolerable. Action should be taken to shut down these accounts and if necessary, legal action as well.
The International Treaty on Human Rights states that no human being may be treated in an undignified or disrespectful manner, and the virtual world is subject to the same rules of conduct as real life. The humiliating, abusive or denigrating treatment of a person is not covered by freedom of expression.
Emotional management of cyberbullying
Unfounded attacks on social networks are instigated by a person who does not know us and knows nothing about us. They are a violation of ethics and the fundamental rights of dignity and respect. Once the problem has been legally addressed, objectively we should feel like it’s all in the past.
But emotions are difficult to manage and can affect us long past the incident. As we said at the beginning, cyberbullying or a bad review centred on our person or our work can cause anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression and can contribute to emotional burnout. Don’t let yourself be influenced by the bully’s comments, because then they will have gotten what they wanted.
Seek support from your colleagues, family and friends and verbalize how you feel. Reconnect with everything great you bring to your patients and their families, and the daily satisfactions you get from your work as a veterinarian or nurse.
If in addition to being a veterinarian you are also in charge of the facility, caring for and helping employees who may experience a cyberbullying situation stemming from or related to their profession should be your priority. Seek legal and psychological assistance if necessary.
Abusive behaviours by clients or non-clients in veterinary centres cannot be allowed. The team, their dignity, their work and their professional standards must be above all else.