Your Clinic Got a Negative Review. Now What?

“Never go here! I had to wait over HALF AN HOUR past my appointment slot, while tons of other people who arrived after me started their appointments. I’m busy, this was not okay.”

“I’m greeted by a nice front office staff and PT Aides, but that’s where the pleasantry ends.”

“The billing system and staff is a mess. I was mortified at what I ended up paying. It was a waste of my time and my money. I have insurance, but the cost was still ridiculous.” (Adapted from real Yelp PT clinic reviews)

Negative reviews aren’t great. They can damage everything from web page visibility to reputation.

But in the end bad reviews can be a good thing; many people even find that bad reviews provide validation for the good reviews. However, negative reviews can get much, much worse for you if you aren’t prepared to respond appropriately. Here are steps you can take to not only avoid backlash, but gain professionalism points in response to a negative review:

A) Don’t overreact.

This is really easy to say now, as opposed to when actually addressing a negative review that stings a little. Don’t get sucked in. It’s business, and as this Yelp for Business article advises, now would be a good time to remember the following:

1. Your reviewers are your paying customers

2. Your reviewers are human beings with (sometimes unpredictable) feelings and sensitivities

3. Your reviewers are vocal and opinionated (otherwise they would not be writing reviews!)

B) Read it again—this time, with feeling!

It can be hard to empathize with someone who is bashing your business, especially if the review is particularly negative, personal, or even (in your opinion) fabricated. Try the best you can at removing yourself from the situation, and identify what the real issue is from their perspective. What is making this reviewer the most upset? Did they have to wait a long time for their appointment? Is it really an issue with their own insurance? Does the review stem from a problem the reviewer had with someone at your office?

You are in an industry where people reviewing you have either been in pain, or are currently in pain—the stakes are higher than when an inexperienced waiter forgets to bring your appetizer. Many of the poor reviews for physical therapy practices that I’ve read are exacerbated by the pain the reviewer was admitting that they were still feeling.

C) Merit check.

Do their comments hold water? If multiple people have commented that they had a positive experience despite a poor interaction with the receptionist or the person who answers the phones in your office, it definitely indicates that there is an issue that needs to be addressed internally. Are appointment slots too short? Are there certain PTs that can get backed up because they enjoy chatting with their patients? Take this as an opportunity to talk about something that you already knew was problematic. The good news is that this is one thing that is in your control.

D) Respond.

Now that you have isolated the issue and taken a moment to gather your thoughts, you are ready to do the tough part: respond to the negative review. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds, follow these general guidelines:

1. Salutation

2. Express empathy for the situation that caused the person distress. This is not the same as admitting guilt/apologizing.

3. Ask them to send you more info (privately, obviously) about the problem or invite them to call your direct line and talk the issue through.

4. Ask for another chance. You may not get one, which is unfortunate, but you have now done your part in reaching out. You can’t control what happens after this point, and that’s okay.

5. Thank them for sharing, and close with your name and position.

Let’s apply the above to an earlier review–

Mike 781: I’m greeted by a nice front office staff and PT Aides, but that’s where the pleasantry ends.

YouHi Mike 781,

I’m sorry to hear that you did not have a great experience with us, we are a family-operated practice and really pride ourselves on friendliness! I would love to talk to you in person about your experience, would you be willing to give us another chance to show you what we’re about? We want to help you on your healing journey. Either way, I appreciate you reaching out to us and wish you the best.


Tom Smith, DPT

Owner, Smith PT

Important note: Don’t violate HIPAA when responding to online comments. Keep all info generic, and only refer to users by the user name they provide, even if you know who they are. Yikes.

That’s really all there is to it. You have responded politely, appropriately, and shown your responsiveness to feedback. Talk about turning a negative into a positive.

(See what I did there?)

Adrienne Sliz

Ambivert. Lover of coffee, fonts, grammar, and Oxford commas. Director of Customer Success at Strive Labs.