Case Study: How to Improve Your Google Rating Through the Patient Experience

June 11, 2020

Over the past decade, the advent of Google, Yelp and Facebook have made online reviews and customer satisfaction the hallmark of client acquisition. For nearly 9 out of 10 people, a Google Rating is as important as personal recommendations and is often the starting point for the customer journey (see Bright Local’s Research). This makes online reputation management a paramount investment in today’s marketplace, as trust is the first asset a customer acquires on their journey to finding the right business to support their needs. Reliability, expertise and professionalism are the most important reputation traits for a business, since 68% of customers say that positive reviews make them trust a company more than not and 40% of consumers form an opinion after reading 1 – 3 reviews (Bright Local).

Improving customer loyalty and creating advocates through positive customer interactions provides tangible business value to organizations that want to differentiate themselves along these lines. Google recognizes it too: the top positions in organic search will be occupied by those that have accrued a good number of positive reviews, which means a higher Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In addition, these results can drive traffic to the company’s website, where potential customers can gather more information that will lead them further down the sales funnel.

Driving customers to seek out your business isn’t enough: customer retention strategies must be waiting for them once they decide to purchase a company’s products or services. Customer experience is the new battleground for sales, marketing and customer retention; more than two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete mostly on the basis of customer experience and up to 81% in two years’ time, according  to the 2017 Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey. Implementing patient experience solutions provides organizations with a clear competitive advantage.

It is at this junction, where a rapidly-changing digital world meets a more agile and astute customer base, that Duco Consulting distinguishes itself by delivering evidence-based business optimization solutions to improve revenue growth. Our clients come to us to restore their Google rating, and to ensure alignment with their offline customer management, which in turn increases the proportion of revenue from returning customers and increases client acquisition through word-of-mouth online marketing. This is evident in our work with a clinic (client will remain anonymous) in Ontario, Canada, where we were responsible for raising their google review rating from 3.2/5 to 4.5/5— a 50% increase in only 3 months.

Duco specializes in the patient experience, through rigorous employee engagement, fastidious online reputation management, strategic social media planning and advanced data analytics. With this performance-based, evidentiary approach, we are able to deliver substantive results to our clients in a relatively short time-frame. Our business model is simple: we work with our clients to identify their pain points and design solutions tailored to optimize their digital assets and minimize their liabilities. For the clinic we accomplished exactly that result.

Business Challenge

Although the clinic has an exalted history as a company, its Google rating was not representative of this. Due to the changing nature and the increased value  in customer satisfaction as a mode of driving business, established methods of attracting and retaining business had not provided the return on investment (ROI) it once did. In recognizing this, the owner of the Institute employed Duco Consulting to increase the ROI on patient experience and was open and willing to adjust his model to do so.

Discovery Phase

Before we started to build a response to the business challenge, we had to understand the issue. The depth of our understanding began with a literature review to study the trends, both micro and macro, impacting the health care industry, the local economy and the company’s qualitative and quantitative impacts. The review also allowed us to place our work in the context of its contribution to understanding the problem being studied, as well as to position our own research within the context of existing work.

For this case study, the literature review gleaned a few current trends in the health care industry (relevant to the clinic) that served as important starting points including demographic trends, the commoditization of outpatient procedures, and the change in demand for health care products. Specifically, the IBISWorld (global industry reports leader) identified the following three aspects as critical trends:

  • Having a good reputation;
  • Use of specialist equipment or facilities; and,
  • Maintenance of excellent customer relations.

Our approach led us to define objectives early in the process. For the clinic they were to:

  1. Assess baseline patient experience. in other words, we set out to answer the following question: how are patients currently experiencing their interactions with the clinic?
  2. Identify evidence-based solutions that will improve the patient experience
  3. Enhance the clinic’s online reputation through impactful and evidence-based interventions

Focus Groups and Feedback

The patient experience is directly related to the staff experience—engaged employees drive the patient experience. Given the intimate nature of healthcare, it is one of the most personal experiences a client will encounter and thus, the management of that experience starts with the staff, from the administrative officer that books the appointment to the doctor who performs the procedure.

We involved the staff from the beginning: we conducted interviews with staff in various positions including office administration, finance, and technicians. The results were a catalogue of strengths and opportunities:

Strengths

  • Leading practice in region with great reputation and experience
  • Positive staff experience & patient experience
  • Team is knowledgeable and skilled
  • Efficiency of patient journey

Opportunities

  • Not capturing data at strategic points to improve patient experience and consultation conversation rate
  • No insight on patient journey
  • Lost opportunities to capitalize on positive reviews

In addition, staff interviews revealed their roles throughout the patient journey and their high engagement in those roles.

Patient engagement is not a static journey, but one that should continue to evolve over the process of providing care to the patient and for a significant amount of time thereafter. This represents a very different construct for thinking about patient treatment, one in which engagement does not begin and end with a single encounter.

Patient Consultation & Procedure Experience

Concurrently to capturing data on staff engagement, we performed a similar analysis on the patient experience with a couple of areas to engage in an in-depth analytical exploration: the consultation process and the post-procedure process. From this analysis, we recommended an updated consultation process, which began with rethinking the initial digital interaction with the patient—the ‘ask for a consultation’ form on the website. Duco introduced a digital interactive email with persona-identifying screening questions and tailored content sent prior to consultation. This identification of the patient persona, prior to an onsite visit, highlighted demographic information in which the customer received tailored messaging based on the buyer persona. The result of this was a customized consultation session that  saved  time  and  was  personalized, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.

Patient Experience and Online Reputation Management

At the end of the post-procedure follow-up visit, the staff reinforced the clinic’s commitment to service excellence, after which patients were asked if they would fill out a post-procedure survey about their experience. One or several questions were asked through an email survey. Based on their experience, patients were then channeled through a “positive” or “negative” experience branching system which triggered different responses from the team. Positive experiences were re-directed to Google, Facebook or Rate MD from their own devices (computers or smart phones) to leave a review.

Within 48 hours the patient who left the average or negative review was emailed with a follow-up survey of a comprehensive list of questions to elicit quantitative and qualitative responses, which were used as feedback to refine the patient journey process. This patient also had the option to be directly contacted by the clinic.

Business Outcomes

Increased Google Rating from 3.2 to 4.5

Our post-procedure survey triaged customer evaluations from the patient focus group into two streams: those who were satisfied with the overall experience were directed to provide a review on Google, whereas those who were less than satisfied were channeled to an incentivized structure to provide feedback for improvement. Oftentimes the less-than-satisfactory results are instrumental in providing insight into gaps in the current standard of care.

Our method of project management collected patient feedback in real time, provided monitoring and reporting functions, mitigated risk of negative reviews and directed and incentivized very satisfied patients to provide online reviews. Positive online reviews were also integrated on the business site, as testimonials, to promote word-of-mouth marketing, at scale, on the homepage.

The result was an increased Google Ranking from 3.2 to 4.5, which in turn, increased patient acquisition. The clinic’s advantage was the reception of real-time feedback from their customers to mitigate the risk of a customer with a bad experience posting negative reviews online, which in turn would tarnish their reputation. One bad review or even word-of-mouth exchange can turn a prospective future customer away. Our solution mitigates that risk and provides opportunities for that risk to be further mitigated in the future.

This is the value proposition we offer our clients: is it better to let a  bad review stand online where it could drive prospective customers towards  your competitors? Or is it better to work with Duco Consulting in order to mitigate that risk from the beginning?

Conclusion

After we engaged key staff through a series of interviews, their feedback helped inform the solutions developed. Critical activities included the implementation of a patient survey, analysis of data and reporting, real-time online reputation management and data-driven recommendations. Throughout the contract period, we implemented our agile continuous quality improvement philosophy, Plan-Do-Study-Act, which refined the patient journey to improve conversion rates in 6-8 weeks.

How customer experiences are addressed at each stage of the decision process is the question that improves data collection around the patient journey and ultimately, is what will provide positive customer reviews. Continuous refinement of procedures and policies that address that question is what Duco Consulting is committed to improving for our clients, as they transform their business processes towards the digital landscape.

Plan. Do. Study. Act.