By Steve Moran

Yesterday I attended a session at SMASH about how to handle negative reviews and there was a lot of discussion, including:

  1. Responding immediately
  2. Responding with empathy
  3. Trying to take the discussion off-line 
  4. Getting more reviews to minimize the impact of negative reviews

This is all good but it actually misses the big point!

Some Examples

Let’s start with some examples of negative reviews and responses:

1-Star Review

“As a former employee, I would never recommend this facility as a place for someone’s loved one to live. Unorganized and sloppy management who can care less.” — 3 weeks old

No Company Response

5-Star Comment  —  just because it made me smile:  “clean staff” is very important.

“The staff is very friendly and very clean . . ..”

1-Star Comment

“Wish I could give 1 star. I’ve applied here before and they drug test you and I’m 100 percent clean but I do take meds prescribed to me that can come up as a false positive. And by law they have to call my doctor and look into it which they didn’t do . . .. “

Company Response: “Thank you for reaching out to us. We take your comments seriously and have shared them with the internal team for review. Thank you.”

1-Star Comment

“Pretty facility, but lacks proper staffing and care. Our mom was injured so many times and they only documented two of her injuries. Mom suffered a broken hip while in the care of two caregivers, many large bruises, black eye, black/blue fingers and swollen, bruised knees.”

Company Response: “We’re sorry to hear about your experience. We’d like to hear more about your specific situation. If you’d be willing, contact our Regional Vice President ___________.”

1-Star Comment

“Please be very cautious about placing your loved ones at this facility. My mother was placed here August 1st and in under three months, she has had an unexplained broken finger, two urinary tract infections, and is now being treated for scabies because of an outbreak in the facility. Twice I have come into the facility and found her bed linens wet and the bed made over it.”

Company Response: “We take your concerns seriously and have heard conflicting information regarding these incidents. We would like to know more. If you’re willing, please contact our Regional Vice President.”

Three BIG Points

There are actually, at least, three big points:

  1. It is easy to find these 1-star reviews, over and over again. There is no doubt with the world we live in, some terrible reviews are inevitable, but they should be rare occurrences.
  2. When the response to each negative review is a canned, boilerplate “we will look into it” or maybe a couple of variants based on the type of complaint, it actually makes the company look worse, not better.
  3. Biggest of all? The most important message I wanted to come out of the session was that operators need to figure out HOW TO FIX the complaints. Most of the time, when people write negative reviews it is because the senior living community has screwed up.  

    This means fixing, not just that incident, but fixing the system that allowed the incident to happen in the first place. 

These things should drive leadership crazy to the point of going nuts about fixing the underlying problem.