5 ways to respond to nasty Facebook comments
Don't let a negative comment linger.
Our new hospital had only been open for a month (still had that "new hospital" smell) when we received our first negative experience post on our
Facebook page. In fact, it wasn't just a post about the experience, but it also included a link to a blog
that the patient created just to write more extensively about her negative experience.
Ouch. So, what to do?
Some members of our executive team wanted the comment deleted immediately. Some wanted Facebook taken down immediately. Some wanted Internet access
taken down immediately.
One voice of reason suggested a radical alternative: Let's respond to her and figure out what happened. (Crickets chirping.)
Here's the deal: Social media etiquette dictates that you do not delete negative comments on Facebook (unless they use abusive language with
specific employee names, etc.). You do not wait to respond. You do not ever ignore it completely.
What you should do is both reasonable and simple:
- Comment immediately with an apology and ask if it would be okay for someone to follow up personally with them within the next 24 hours. This should
never be "canned" material, by the way.
- Identify/notify the care team involved with the experience. If you have a patient experience representative or team (as more hospitals do now and yours definitely should), they should be notified to get the ball rolling.
- Keep the patient informed on Facebook with any updates ("Hey Frank, I've passed along your comment to our Patient Experience representative/team.
Would it be okay for them to contact you directly?")
- Make sure that the loop is closed—usually our CNO follows up personally with all patient complaints that are clinical in nature; or our ER Director
if it's ER-related; etc.
- Do this process every time, for every complaint. It isn't rocket science. It's just good customer service in the social media age
Negative experiences happen at your hospital. They happen at every hospital. What's different now is that patients and visitors have instantaneous
access to wide audiences, via social media. In the past, they may have sat down after the fact and composed a letter to your hospital. Now, they sit
with their iPhones in your ER and post on your Facebook wall that they've been waiting for three hours and haven't been seen. (Eeep.)
Our experience has been that a lot of upset patients who post negative comments are pleasantly surprised by a quick response, with an offer to listen
to what happened. They usually take us up on those offers, and are usually very appreciative. (You can't please everyone, no matter how hard you try.)
Our first (and certainly not our last—our latest happened just two weeks ago) negative experience on Facebook ended positively when the patient posted
a note of thanks and appreciation for the resolution on our wall. And I was happy to see that, to this day, there are no further posts about our
hospital on her blog.
Josh McColough is the marketing communications and PR manager at Sherman Health in Elgin, Illinois. You can read more of
Josh McColough's blog here.
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