The most common consultation question I’m asked is “What can I do about the negative Yelp review I just received?”
Until now, there hasn’t been much that we can do other than do good work, listen to our clients’ feedback, and hope that we don’t upset someone enough for them to want to publicly complain about our work on the Internet. My typical first response to someone who just got a bad online review is to recommend that they take a deep breath, try to shake it off, and seek support from their colleagues and people who know them and their work.
But for two years, I have been working on a solution. In my trainings, I’ve recommended that the best way for clinicians to manage this is to take steps to put client feedback back into their own hands by developing post-treatment feedback forms and getting client consent to post aggregate data on their sites.
Nine months ago, I developed a questionnaire asking psychotherapy clients what they would most like to find in online reviews of therapists. One hundred and forty-five participants responded and I used that data to develop a follow-up survey. I’ve been using my own follow-up form in my practice for almost two months, as well as implementing an ongoing feedback form. I’ve also had a couple of other clinicians alpha test this in their own practice.
To view a preview of the data I’m getting, peek at my Client Feedback page.
Now you can get your hands on this survey because I’m releasing it in a public alpha launch.
Here’s how it works.
You pay a very reasonable set-up fee, I will host your form, then you send the link to your feedback survey to clients who have completed treatment with you and wait for your results to come in. Once you have 15 completed surveys, you will be sent an aggregate view of your data. If you’re itching to know how many responses you’ve gotten before you reach your 15, go ahead and check in with me and I’m happy to let you know.
Why the wait? We wait for 15 clients to complete the surveys to help protect the privacy of your clients. The goal is to see how you are doing generally, not person-by-person. And the potential end-user of this site is clients who are looking at your ratings online. If you like what you see and want to continue using the form, you can pay for a monthly (or yearly subscription, at a lower rate).
Also, some research indicates that it takes 6-10 local reviews for a business to gain trust from consumers. We want to make your results a bit more robust for you and your potential clients.
Every time you get 5 more responses, you’ll get an updated graph with a time and date stamp.
How is this ethical? For one thing, it is sent only to clients you have completed therapy with, and with their consent. No testimonials or text-based responses are shared with anyone but you. Aggregate data is revealed which does not compromise the identity of participants to you, or to the public (or to their friend lists or Facebook. Bleh!).
How is this good for me? If you wait out the initial period as you build your feedback data, and send this to all clients you complete treatment with, you will have an alternative data point that you can post online to show people “Hey, I sent this to all of my clients, and here is what they are saying about my services.” This can take the sting out of the unfortunate experience of getting a negative online review from one disgruntled client.
You’ll also get a very good idea where your growth edge is and how you may be already excelling in your care and where you may need to pay a bit more attention. And if you choose to keep your feedback private, you can simply use it as a tool to improve your services.
How is this good for clients? It helps them to find out the information they want to know about you and your practice: the issues you treat, what you’re especially good at, and whether people who work with you would be comfortable referring others to you. It also protects their privacy without exposing their personal issues to their friend networks or the public. And it gives them a chance to honestly give you feedback, without any negative consequence. I believe that in our changing culture of Internet transparency, it also lets clients know that you are willing to stand behind your services and receive feedback about how you’re doing.
Do you want to take control of client feedback and make sure you know how your clients feel about your services? If the answer is yes, join me in my alpha launch.
I’ll follow up with an email with the FAQ, and giving you all you need to get started. If you have questions and concerns, we’ll chat on the phone and I can tell you more about my experiences with this product.
As an alpha launch partner, I’ll also be asking you for some feedback of your own, sharing what you like and don’t like about the product, and you can have a hand in fine-tuning it and shaping it.
I hope you’ll join me in this new venture and adventure!
If you’re looking for other resources about managing Yelp, I highly recommend the articles below:
Ofer Zur’s brand new post on Modern Day Digital Revenge offers many tips and resources for dealing with online reviews.
Matt Lundquist of TriBeCa Therapy in New York had a creative and human approach to dealing with his own negative review on Yelp.
Pysychotherapy Finances did a review of what you can do about Yelp, interviewing me and Dr. David Ballard, last year.
A recent blog post of mine had a number of experts weighing in on what you can and can’t do and whether those posting reviews of our services still have a right to confidentiality.
My New York Times Op-Ed, The Wrong Type of Talk Therapy, was when I first began wishing for an alternative to online review sites which might better protect consumers.
Lastly, some people have taken to adopting my language from my own Yelp page and using it on theirs. I allow any and all clinicians to use this on your page, if you wish.
Posting a review of my services is your right as a client and it is entirely up to you to decide whether you wish to write a review. But I gently discourage clients from posting reviews of my practice for the reasons below.
1. The American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code states that it is unethical for psychologists to solicit testimonials: Principle 5.05 “Psychologists do not solicit testimonials from current therapy clients/patients or other persons who because of their particular circumstances are vulnerable to undue influence.”
Since you may decide to return to therapy with me at a later date, I do not request testimonials from people who have ended therapy with me.
2. Unlike other business owners who may respond to their Yelp reviews, as a psychologist, I must provide confidentiality to my clients. This means I am restricted from responding in any way that acknowledges whether someone has been in my care.
3. I hope that if we work together, we can discuss your feelings about our work directly and in person. This may not always feel comfortable, but the discussion of positive and negative reactions to our process can be an important part of your therapy. If we are not a good match, I’m always happy to help you find a therapist who better suits you.
4. If you still choose to write something about my practice on Yelp, remember that this is a public forum and you may be sharing personally revealing information with a wide range of readers. To preserve your privacy, consider using a pseudonym that is not linked to your regular email address or friend networks.
5. If you believe that I (or any licensed mental health professional) have done something harmful, consider contacting your state licensing board to make a formal complaint. This may protect other consumers of therapy services. Be aware that details of your therapy may come up if there is a formal investigation.