Haters Gonna Hate

Five effective steps to dealing with negative reviews and comments.

I had just sat down to brunch with my wife in Miami when my phone began vibrating on the table. It was a client.

We had just landed in Miami that morning, checked into our hotel and were now trying to order breakfast. I wasn’t going to answer it.

“Josh, we’ve got a Facebook review that’s getting out of hand. We deleted a negative comment last night, but they’ve re-posted it and left the same thing on Google. I need a call from you so we can sort this out.”

My “I’m-in-Miami-smile” faded.

“Who was that?” my wife asked.

Luckily, it’s a client I really like.

“Ugh. I’ve got to make a call. I apologize.”

As more and more practices realize the importance of reviews and begin assertively asking patients to leave them the chances of getting a negative comment go up as well. While you may have 36 amazing five star reviews from patients that really love you, the one negative comment always stands out and feels like a personal attack.

Customer service has become a spectator sport in recent years played out in public forums. While there are often legitimate concerns being voiced by patients through social media and review sites, there are often lots of Hatersexaggerating small faults to create stories and get attention. We can complain all we want that it’s not true, not right or not fair, but smart practices use it as a competitive advantage to engage the Haters and win loyal patients for life.

Before we get into keys to dealing with negative reviews or comments, it’s important that we understand the two types of Haters:

Private Haters — these Haters complain in private, mostly through email or a phone call. What they’re looking for is an answer or a solution and they are expecting a response.

Public Haters — these Haters complain in public, mostly through social media and review sites. What they’re looking for is an audience. They don’t expect a response, they just want attention.

Private Haters can be dealt with in a straight forward manner: Respond and offer a solution to the problem. Dealing with Public Haters can be a bit more complex. Here are some keys to help:


Getting a negative review can be tough to deal with. Your heart rate goes up, your body temperature rises and you become defensive. Anytime we experience an attack we instinctively have two responses: fight or flight.

Fight is responding defensively to the specifics of the comment. Fight fire with fire. Chances are this patient is demanding, unreasonable and never pays their bills. This is your chance to let the world know who they really are. By responding with the same emotion you are inviting the conversation to escalate. In the end, you may prove your point and win the fight with this patient, but you’ve lost trust with everyone else who sees the conversation.

Flight is deleting the comment. Hide the conversation from others by getting rid of it. Although it makes perfect sense that this is your Facebook page and you should have control over what goes on, it typically makes the problem worse. Once the patient realizes you’ve deleted the comment they’ll most likely post it again (and mention that you deleted it) on multiple platforms.


The best way to respond to any negative comment or review is generally and sincerely.

“Mrs. Smith, we are so sorry you had this experience. It is certainly not up to our standard of care. Our office will be reaching out to you in hopes of correcting this situation.”

Do not address the specifics of the comment.

Do express empathy.

Do apologize.

Craft a specific response like this that you can automatically use in these situations.


Fast Company reports that the average customer service email response takes 23 hours. That is entirely too long for 2016.

An Eptica study revealed that:

  • 77% of consumers won’t wait more than six hours for an email response.
  • 85% of consumers using Facebook expect an answer within six hours.
  • 64% of consumers using Twitter expect a response within an hour.

Jay Baer, author of a great new book called Hug Your Haters (I highly recommend it) says 42% of consumers expect a 60 minute response time for social media.

If you are on social media, the assumption is that you are “on” social media. If someone leaves a comment it’s assumed you see it — right away.

I think responding within 60 minutes would be an amazing goal. I also realize that you and your staff are trying to run a dental practice. I would make sure someone has notifications set up and is responding to all comments (positive or negative) within four hours.


There are Haters and then there are Trolls. Trolls live under the dark bridges of the internet and only come out to harass others and be rude. Typically Trolls are not patients and are unassociated with your practice. They’re experts at criticism as they “troll” around the internet stirring up fights. Here are some guidelines for dealing with Trolls and spam:

  • If the comment is totally off topic, ignore it.
  • It the comment or review is a personal attack, report it.
  • If it contains profanity, threats or insults, report it.

All the major review sites have terms of service that do not allow defamation, profanity or threats. Reporting these will usually get them removed.

  • If the comment or review looks like it was written by a robot or someone with very, very bad english, report it.

Spam bots are getting better and better at hacking platforms and leaving random reviews. If you happen to see something come across that isn’t from a current patient and just looks weird, report it. Both Google and Yelp are great about removing those.


In the last year, with the growing investment in Facebook and Instagram ads, we’ve developed some of our own rules:

  • If negative comments happen on an ad, we hide them.
  • If they happen organically on a post, follow the instructions above.

A Facebook ad is a different environment. It’s a piece of content you’re paying to put in front of people that (usually) are not your patients. You’re putting your best foot forward and attempting to communicate the story of your practice. Negative comments diminish the ad and take away from the success of your campaign.

The majority of the time, anyone leaving a negative comment on an ad is just looking to stir up trouble. This is a popular place for Trolls to come out and play. If it’s a negative comment completely detached from anyone you know in the practice, feel free to hit the HIDE button. Then sit back and smile.

The best defense for handling negative comments and reviews is to have a non-emotional strategy in place. Instead of fight or flight, respond quickly with a general and sincere response. Ignore the trolls, report the spam and feel great about hiding negativity from your ads.

Above all, follow the advice of Taylor,

“the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
Shake it off, shake it off.”

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