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Zach Zavoral: How To Handle Getting Yelped

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Sometimes it’s just better to apologize to unhappy clients on online review sites

BY Zach Zavoral

Published in the July/August 2014 issue

Last issue, we looked at the fact your business could have a Facebook page without even knowing it. Let’s talk now about other ways customers talk behind your back — and what you can do about it.

Owning your online reputation takes guts. Honestly, you might not be able to handle it. But the reality is, you’re the only one who can.

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To improve your online reputation, you must actually confront angry patients. Why? On Yelp, Angie’s List, Healthgrades and Google, only the patient can remove a negative review. You can’t do it. Yelp won’t do it (not even if you pay them). And legal precedent favors the patient: Wong v. Jing — a 2009 case involving a pediatric dentist suing an upset patient for a negative review on Yelp — cost the practitioner $81,000 in fines and the negative review stayed online. Ouch.

Your staff can’t resolve the issue, either. An apology is most effective coming from you. So when you see a negative review, decipher it to learn the precise issue that upset the patient. (You or your staff will likely know which patient posted the review based on the experience described.)

Then the gutsy part: call the patient directly, in private, without advance notice. Don’t e-mail. Just take a deep breath and call the patient.

When you connect on the phone:

  • Say that the patient’s satisfaction is your top priority.
  • Apologize for whatever issue caused the negative review.
  • Offer some sort of restitution for the “error,” anything from discounted eyewear to a restaurant gift certificate.
  • Explain that your practice’s reputation is important to you because it reflects who you are as a person.
  • By this point, you have softened up the disgruntled patient, presenting yourself as a caring, humble practitioner of honorable character. The patient now knows you see them as a person, not a cash cow.
  • You can now directly and politely request that the patient remove their negative review from Yelp (or whichever website they used).

How about when you’re not genuinely sorry for the patient’s experience? Say a patient is upset because they misunderstood their bill and had to pay $60 more than anticipated. An apology and free lunch won’t resolve the issue; the patient still feels “robbed” of $60. To you, though, the patient is only complaining because they want cheap eyecare!

Should you still apologize? Ask yourself how much that negative review is worth. To the patient, the review is worth exactly how much money they feel you’ve “stolen.” But the impact on your practice is far greater: iPhone’s Siri uses Yelp reviews to determine which eyecare practice is “the best” in any given area. One negative review could bump your practice off the list.

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If a patient refuses to remove the review, you can try the less-effective route of “burying” it. Ask your satisfied patients to post positive reviews of their experiences. Bear in mind, though, that readers “score” reviews based on their helpfulness. If the negative review is deemed “helpful” to readers, you may never be able to bury it — but at least you’ll have positive notices alongside the negative.

One more caveat: don’t bother signing up for one of those “online reputation” businesses, which do little more than set up Google alerts for your name and your practice and tell you anytime your practice’s name is published online. These online reputation services can’t remove a negative review of your practice from the Internet — and you can set up your own Google alerts.

Finally, though you may not want to admit it, your online reputation on sites like Yelp might just be an accurate portrayal of your offline reputation as well. If you receive several bad reviews online, you’re likely getting as many offline. Try looking within your practice to see where problems exist. The best way to maintain a golden reputation is to offer golden patient care, plain and simple.

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It’s Time to Change the Way You Think About Failure

It’s nothing more than feedback to improve.

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WHEN THINKING ABOUT failure and what it means to fail, it often carries a negative connotation. We associate failure with loss and tend to get down on ourselves for it, especially in our careers and personal life. I’m here to tell you that not only is failure the greatest part of personal growth, but it’s a push to do and be better. Changing your perspective of failure from a negative to positive allows you to go through life, with its curve balls, at peace. Believing that failure is just feedback is an important key to life. Let me explain why.

In a growing field like the optical industry, fear of failure is the ultimate setback for ECPs. When speaking to colleagues about their next goal and what they want to achieve for themselves, I consistently hear something along the lines of, ‘’What can I do to be different… I’m not sure if I can compete with ___. I need to make sure it will work.” Uncertainty plays a big part as well; when you’re unsure of how things are going to play out you have doubt… which leads to fear of failure.

Humans struggle to get comfortable with the unknown. Whether your goal is to open a business, become active on social media, start an organization, design your own eyewear line – fear of failure should be your last thought. It’s just another way of holding you back from pursuing things with your full potential.

As I’ve advanced my career in opticianry, created a platform for myself as a public figure and as an independent eyewear influencer, I’ve run into fear of failure regularly. For those of you currently dealing with fear of failure, here are my top tips for combating it:

Turn failure into constructive criticism. You know that famous quote, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?” Well, it’s true. Turn your failures into life giving you constructive criticism. It allows you to look at your mistakes in full, take notes on how/why it didn’t work out and then reevaluate it and try again.

Be kind to yourself. We are our worst critics. Being kind to yourself is key. When dealing with failure, try not to talk down to yourself. Don’t compare what you’ve done to others and give yourself daily affirmations to keep going. Remember: You are what you think, so always think highly of yourself.

Set attainable goals and never give up. Its OK to dream big, but it must go hand in hand with thinking logically. Try breaking down bigger dreams into smaller goals and celebrate each successful step taken.

Have a reliable support system. When you associate yourself with like-minded individuals, addressing failure with a supportive group of friends or colleagues can put it in perspective. Knowing you’re not alone and having people to offer their insight and opinions can help you to feel more confident when trying again. Also, it’s never a bad idea to bounce your ideas off of others and get different perspectives.

I can’t stress enough the importance of failure in life. The most successful people you can think of have experienced failure and made plenty of mistakes. Failure should never be a reason to give up, but the push you need to keep going and move forward. If everything has been easy for you, that means you’ve only done the bare minimum. Take more chances this year, think bigger, and take the steps necessary to make your dreams happen!

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Robert Bell

Celebrate Failure, Just like Deacon Blues

Because you can’t have success without failure.

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THEY GOT A NAME for the winners in the world.

I … I want a name when I lose

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide

Call me Deacon Blues”

— Deacon Blues by Steely Dan

I love that lyric. It’s clever. It expresses so much, so powerfully and concisely. “I want a name when I lose.” Brilliant.

Why do I think it’s brilliant? Because no one, to my knowledge, has ever captured that sentiment before on something as common as losing. It’s as though it’s a celebration of failure.

Hey, and why not?

In the movie, National Treasure, Nicolas Cage’s character, says “You know, Thomas Edison failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb … And when asked about it, he said “I didn’t fail; I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb,” but he only needed one way to make it work.”

The point is that no one, can be successful at anything without failing first … or 2,000 times. Yes, there are instances of success on the first try but those often can’t be sustained.

Failure makes us stronger! Smarter! And, in most cases, more determined.

Want to know my first failure selling?

I was 21 and starting up a contact lens distributorship with a partner. He was going to run the business end of things and I was responsible for selling. After all, I was the son of an optical sales legend. But, to be honest, I’d never sold anything before. How hard could it be?

It took us about two weeks to set up the business. Every day during those two weeks, I’d pass this optometrist’s office thinking they’re going to be my first call and, hopefully, my first sale. Every day, as I passed by that office, I thought: “You’re mine. I’m gonna get you!”

Finally, the day arrived. It was time to make sales calls. This should have been the easiest call ever. All I had to do was walk in and say, “Hi, I’m a contact lens distributor. We have the lowest prices on brands you probably already buy. Here’s my price list. If you’d like to order, please give us a call.”

Doesn’t get simpler than that.

So, I walked into that OD’s office.

“Hi, may we help you?” the very nice receptionist said.

“Yes. I, uhhh … ummm …” I started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was so nervous, my system shut down and … well, I threw up on their waiting room floor. Bent over, I started crying from embarrassment. Thank goodness, the receptionist and doctor — who ran out at the commotion — were the nicest people. They helped calm me down and clean me up.

I drove home, went straight to my room, hit the bed in fetal position (probably sucked my thumb, too) and stayed there feeling like a complete loser. The ultimate failure. Call me Deacon Blues!

Fast forward to today. Here I am, a sales trainer and sales strategist who’s successfully trained thousands of salespeople and has been writing for INVISION Magazine for the past five years. Success borne of failure!

So, don’t get down on yourself when a customer says, “No.” Think, “Well, at least I didn’t throw up like Robert did.” But, also, think about how you might be better next time. What does a successful sale look like and how do you get there?

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Danielle Richardson

Stop Trying to Be Perfect

It’s just making us sick.

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PERFECTIONISM IS THE SISTER of failure, and she keeps many of us stuck and unhappy. Perfectionism takes different forms but is generally defined as a personality trait marked by a person’s striving for perfection, creating unreasonably high standards, and engaging in harsh self-critical analysis. This will sound familiar if you’re an overachieving personality type; perfectionism runs deep in many of us.

Thomas Curran Ph.D., a personality psychologist, and physiologist Andrew Hill published a study showing how perfectionism has increased over time. Their study of over 40,000 American, Canadian, and British college students between 1989 and 2016 showed an increase in levels of perfectionism, affecting males and females equally. They correlate this increase with Western society’s “emphasized competitive individualism” that began en masse in the 1980s.

A 2017 World Health Organization report also showed a record number of young people are suffering from serious depression or anxiety disorders. Curran and Hill postulate this rise is not related to a coddled, emotionally weak generation, but “may stem from the excessive standards that they hold for themselves and the harsh self-punishment they routinely engage in.” In short — perfectionism is making us sick.

The links between modern society and perfectionism are inextricable. Living in the digital age, where everyone and everything has become a “brand,” there is an immense amount of pressure to maintain a perfect appearance. As doctors, we are always striving to appear competent, knowledgeable, and like we have it all together. To overcome perfectionism, we have to be willing to release our rigid ideas of how things are “supposed” to be. We can still strive for excellence while extending ourselves grace to not be perfect. Below are two techniques to help you get started.

Make Peace With Failure

Failure is not a dirty 7-letter word, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure as a learning exercise is being taken seriously at Columbia University’s Teachers College where a center dedicated to studying failure’s educational purpose, the Education for Persistence and Innovation Center, was recently created. Failure is also a fundamental cornerstone of science, for there are many failed attempts for every successful experiment. This should encourage you to know that it’s OK to fail. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so don’t be discouraged — get out and shoot!

Try Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, defines it as being kind and understanding instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies and/or personal failings. As a yoga teacher, this is a quality I and my students work to cultivate. It may seem counterintuitive, but treating yourself as you would treat a friend in need is a simple way to exercise self-compassion.
You don’t have to be perfect. Embrace the ups-and-downs and be kind to yourself. Your journey will be far more enjoyable!

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