Professional Courtesy Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, Editorial Director, Dentaltown Magazine

The False Feedback Loop
– by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, Editorial Director, Dentaltown Magazine

In a world where some kids play soccer and don't keep score, it can be difficult to get honest feedback. I first noticed this disturbing trend when I purchased a new car four years ago and the agent for the dealership was very clear that they wanted a perfect score on the evaluation that would come from the auto manufacturer. If they did not earn a perfect score, they wanted to know so they could correct the matter so I could tell their parent company they were perfect. Is this really a method for honest feedback? I'm sure you could name other instances where you were put on the spot to provide a perfect rating or someone would be personally affected.

We live in a world where the ability to rate and provide feedback on every product and service we experience is possible. There are entire Web sites dedicated to the process and your online reputation has become a difficult tiger to tame. So much importance has been placed on having reviews of your business online that it has launched a cottage industry of businesses that will assist you with managing your online reputation. A recent article in The New York Times described how an online merchant climbed to the top of many Google search results by garnering as many negative reviews as possible. Yes, negative reviews; he claims in the article that he discovered an increase in business the more he was reviewed online.¹ While I would not advocate this approach, it is an indication that online reviews are not yet a perfect science.

The anonymity of reviews is the most obvious hole in the current system. They allow malicious individuals or competitors to post things that are not true. Many of the major review aggregators have processes to remove these fraudulent posts, but it can be a difficult process. By the same token, people have been accused of posting reviews of their own business to improve their rating. Most reputation firms subscribe to the old adage: the best defense is a good offense. In other words, ask people to post the truth about how great your business really is and the negative reviews become insignificant. Others might choose to ignore this trend completely, but that is a short-term strategy in my opinion. Just ask any dentist who said having a Web site was a waste of time.

While you do not need to become obsessed with your online reputation, you should be monitoring the major sites that list dentists. I provided a very comprehensive list in my December 2009 column, which is archived on Encourage your patients to visit these sites and share feedback about your practice. If you prefer a more formal approach, many of the appointment reminder companies can automatically send an electronic feedback form to your practice after their appointment. In this case, the results are for your internal use and benefit. However, if you already have a smoothly running practice, the feedback link could point your patient directly to one of the online review sites.

One final thought on this process: don't be afraid of some less-than-positive feedback. Some review-generating partners will allow you to view a review before it is public, and I'm told that some users will fall into the trap that they only allow the five-star reviews to come through. When I read reviews online, if there isn't a bit of criticism about the product or service, I'm immediately suspicious of the entire batch of reviews.

Do you have a personal experience to share with the online review process? Share it on Your comments and suggestions for future topics are always welcome:

Do you have a personal experience to share with the online review process? Share it on Your comments and suggestions for future topics are always welcome:

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