Having a plan for dealing with negative comments that pop up in your social media channels is critical.
By now, most healthcare organizations have decided that the benefits of building an online community outweigh the risks. However, I’ve certainly had a couple of clients who have been concerned (and rightly so) recently about how to respond to negative feedback.
I came across a post from Nicola Ziady that offers some good advice about how to deal with less than positive comments.
The first step in dealing with negative commentary on your social media networks is to determine what type of feedback you have received so that you can craft an appropriate response. Below are four types of feedback and what to do if you encounter them:
1. Straight Out Problem
A patient or referring physician may publish information about something that went wrong. This type of feedback can certainly paint your hospital in a poor light, but it can also be helpful in exposing genuine problems that need to be solved.
What to Do:
A comment raising a Straight Out Problem definitely deserves a response. You should issue a public response so that all members of your online community can see it. But it might also be appropriate to send a personal message to the person who made the comment, depending on how widespread the problem is and how many people are discussing it. If a serious problem exists, steps should be taken to fix it. Patients should be notified that you are listening to concerns and that steps are being taken.
Sometimes tough criticism is the result of a “perceived problem” rather than an actual problem (e.g., someone who just doesn’t like the method by which you do a certain procedure). This type of complaint should also be given a formal response, even if only to say, “Thank you for bringing it to our attention, but here’s why we do it that way.”
2. Constructive Criticism
Sometimes feedback comes with a suggestion attached. Many patients — including the most loyal, will use Twitter, Facebook or your blog to suggest ways in which you can improve your facilities, service or care. While this feedback does point out flaws, it can be very helpful to receive.
What To Do:
First, thank patients who took time to provide you with a suggestion. If it is something you will implement or consider, let them know. Bringing patient ideas into your process can certainly build loyalty.
3. Merited Attack
While the negative comment itself may not be merited, the issue that initiated it has merit in generating this type of feedback. You, your physician or your nurse did something wrong, and someone is angry.
What To Do:
Merited Attacks can be tough to tackle and solve, as they are more likely to involve other groups in the hospital. As harsh as this type of criticism can sound, it’s important to remember that it usually stems from a legitimate problem. It is best to respond quickly and with a positive tone. Thank the commenter for his or her feedback and assure them that steps are being taken to correct the problem or mitigate their issue.
4. Troll (I love this term.)
This is an annoying type of negative feedback. The difference between trolling & a merited attack is that trolls have no legitimate reason for being angry at the hospital. This feedback is a waste of everyone’s time.
What to Do:
The last type of negative feedback, Trolling, is the only category which does not require a response. Often, it is better not to respond to Trolls because this type of commentary is not really “feedback.” Instead, it is designed to bait you into an unnecessary and perhaps even damaging brawl. Ignore this type of feedback and remove from your Facebook page. (Note: Yes, it’s okay to remove abusive posts. One of our clients recently had a Troll whose comment initially posed as a Merited Attack. Our first response just fueled the fire, and the Troll turned quite ugly with a very unmerited attack on one of our physicians. We quickly removed the post, and the Troll went slinking away.)
Please do make sure that you have a social media policy in place, especially on your Facebook page that clearly states your intolerance for abusive comments.
Here’s a basic example:
We welcome the exchange of ideas on our Facebook page through the use of posted comments.
Comments posted on our page do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the [company].
If you have a concern about any posted content, or about any content that has been removed by the administrators of this Facebook page, please e-mail us at XXXXXX.
The bottom line in responding to criticism is to stay positive. As tempting as it may be, don’t be drawn into a public brawl with a patient. Nothing good can come of it.