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Zach Zavoral: How To Handle Getting Yelped




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.


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.


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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You Can’t Meet Everyone’s Needs, So Why Try?

Know your niche.




Know your niche as a retailer and stay true to that niche. Don’t try to meet everyone’s needs – if you try you will compromise somewhere else. – Carter Johnston, OD, Physicians Optical Luxury Eyewear, Oklahoma City, OK

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Robert Bell

The Single Best Tool to Help Your Staff to Sell In and Outside the Office

Plus it has the added benefit of showing them you value them.




JUST BETWEEN US, have you ever fantasized about wanting to give a playful smack to a patient or customer because they did something incredibly stupid? Or, they didn’t do something they were supposed to do in the no-brainer category?

No? Liar!

Well, here’s a no-brainer scenario in which I’d like to smack (playfully!) a hefty percentage of optometric business owners. Ok, honestly, I wouldn’t hurt or embarrass any of you. However, I’ll tell you this: this “no-brainer scenario” makes me pull my hair out of my head. And, folks? I’m bald!

What’s the no-brainer scenario? Business cards.

“But Robert, I have a business card.” I’m sure you do, doctor. Does everyone on your staff have one, too? Everyone? Uh huh. I’m losing more hair as we speak!

From your front desk personnel to your licensed opticians, everyone on your staff should have printed business cards with their name on it, their title (if they want one), the name of your practice, your location(s), your phone number and your website.

Everyone on your staff should be required to carry a few in their purses or wallets 24/7.

Why? So many reasons! Here’s one example from one of my favorite conversations with an optician:

Optician: I was in a Target once and standing behind this woman wearing the most G-d awful glasses. I was thinking, “Omg, who the hell did that to you?”

Me: Did you say anything to her?

O: Um, no.

M: Why not?

O: Whaddya mean, “why not?” What was I going to say?

M: Oh, any number of things. How about, “Hi there. I’m Darla. I was looking at your glasses. I’m an optician. Then … are you happy with them? … or how long ago did you get them? … or where did you get them? Anything to get her talking about her glasses.

O: Why?

M: So you could engage her, find out if you, as an optician, could be of help to her. If so, then you could’ve given her your business card and said, “Here, take my card. Next time you need glasses or an eye exam, come in and ask for me and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.” Then, before you give her the card, you say ‘I’m gonna write on the back of my card to give you $20 off on a pair of sunglasses, if you’re able to come in within the month.’

O: (spurts out a laugh) Yeah, right. Like my OD would pay for business cards for me. Get real. She’s too cheap.

Lord, I’m so bald.

Doctors, by purchasing business cards for your staff (such a minimal investment that can reap in beaucoup rewards), you do the following things:

  • You’re telling them they, as your employee, are important to you.
  • You’re telling them they are an integral part of your team.
  • You’re telling them you’re proud to have them on your team.
  • You make them think you appreciate them and show them so with something tangible.
  • This usually makes them proud of where they work and proud of working for you.

Either you’re proud of your practice and the people who work for you, or you’re not. If you’re not, please disregard what you’ve read here. If you are, well, you know what to do next.

Once your staff is stocked up on cards, it’s time to train them. For Robert’s business card sales training tips visit

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Danielle Richardson

Feel Like Your Wellness Routine Could Be Missing Something? It’s Probably Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping, which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.




WHEN YOU THINK OF your health and wellness, how often do you think of sleep? Chances are not often — but you should. Sleep is the newest frontier in wellness as public health consciousness continues to increase and we move to a more holistic idea of health. We spend nearly 1/3 of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The National Sleep Foundation defines quality sleep as occurring when you’re asleep within 30 minutes of laying down, wake no more than once, and sleep for at least 85 percent of the night. Unfortunately, quality sleep is an uncommon occurrence as the CDC reports a third of American adults experience poor or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems or disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. As a country, we need to get some rest!

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and triples the risk for type 2 diabetes according to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick Finan, PhD. Those not getting adequate sleep suffer from a weakened immune system, irregular metabolism, and obesity secondary to increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Not limited to just the physical body, sleep deprivation can also manifest as cognitive impairment and/or mental health changes including depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog. Poor quality sleep is far less recuperative, which causes us to not feel rested when do we wake up.

Sleep depends on a number of factors, our body’s internal regulating system is chief among them. Our Circadian Rhythm functions as the body’s biological clock and regulates the experience of alertness vs. sleepiness. This rhythm is sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol peaks in the morning allowing us to be alert and focused throughout the day. The secretion of melatonin — which helps us sleep — is highest at night.

These days, our minds are moving a mile a minute and we’re constantly on light-producing digital devices even though increased high-energy blue light exposure from devices decreases melatonin production and causes insomnia or sleeplessness. The disrupting culprits aren’t limited to devices though; increased stress, irregular work schedules, frequent jet lag, and sleep disorders can also disrupt our cycles.

The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of quality sleep for adults and more for teens and children. Here are some easy ways you can get better sleep tonight:

Build Consistency. It’s important to wake and head to bed around the same time each day — even on the weekends.

Use Sleep Monitoring Technology. Smartphones and wearable tech devices can help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep through downloadable applications and Bluetooth technology.

Sleep Habits. Limit screen time and diminish light sources in the bedroom. Additionally, use the automatic setting on your phone to warm the screen at night.

Bonus — Zen Out! Use essential oils or pillow sprays in scents like lavender as aromatherapy to help you sleep. Also consider meditation, light music, or other soothing sounds as a relaxing way to send yourself to bed.

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