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Online Reputation Management in Healthcare: Some Case Studies

In healthcare, “Trust” is paramount. This was something the founder of Johnson & Johnson recognized and remarked upon nearly 84 years ago, when he said that businesses had a responsibility toward society and could only build real trust by engaging all stakeholders. In the increasingly interconnected world, building and maintaining brand reputation of healthcare brands is a steeper challenge.

Why is online reputation management important for the healthcare industry?

Managing brand reputation is important for every brand. In healthcare, the need is more acute as distrust of any nature would imply a complete annihilation of the brand. Why is that the case?

  • 60% of adults depend on online reputation/ratings to make a provider choice.
  • Positive reviews are important for at least 33% of them.
  • 37% never meet a doctor or hospital with negative reviews.
  • 72% of patients who post a negative feedback do so because they were unhappy with a billing mistake, incorrect deductible payment, impolite/rude front office staff or improper paper work. Only 28% do so because they are unhappy with the physician.

As a healthcare brand manager, certain assumptions need to be made. One must assume that mistakes and oversights will happen. Also, an assumption which is valid is that disgruntled customers are more likely to vent out their feedback than customers who are happy. As a Harvard Business Review puts it, there’s a systematic problem with many online reviews — they tend to over-represent the most extreme views and what we usually get is a diatribe! A third assumption is also important – in this interconnected world, complaints and concerns are more likely to appear on social before they make it to mainstream media.

Can we learn from these cases where healthcare players managed their reputation, over the years?

  1. The case of poison in pills: J&J

Ask anyone. Pride of place for facing reputation crises goes to J&J for the way it masterfully managed its Tylenol crisis (which spawned multiple business school case studies) in 1982 and of course, the 2018 asbestos-in-baby-talc crisis which is also a full-blown crisis, but we can see that the stock price is showing signs of recovery, already.

J&J healthcare brand reputation case study

Johnson & Johnson’s Tylenol commanded a 35% share of OTC analgesics in the USA, pulling in 15% of the company’s profits in ‘82. Saboteurs laced the tablets with cyanide, causing 7 deaths, and $1bn drop in share price for J&J, drop in market share to 8%, lost production and destroyed goods. The company recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol, worked hard to make the packaging tamper-proof (using features which became industry-standard since) winning the trust of old consumers again and actually onboarding new ones. Their quick and decisive action, willingness to incur $100 m. more in costs and how they communicated ironclad pledges to protect customers were the stuff of legend. Cut to the recent allegations of knowingly ignoring the presence of asbestos in baby talc. Since the matter stands subjudice, we shall await further developments on how, when (and if) they recoup and return to business as usual. 

  1. Salford Royal Hospitals violation of Privacy

When the medical records of former Manchester United manager Six Alex Ferguson were illegally accessed by some of the staff without a clinical requirement to do so, at the Salford Royal Hospital, the hospital initiated investigations against three staff members for an information governance breach and issued an unreserved apology to the patient and their family with promises to keep them updated as the investigations progress. The manager actually thanked the staff at Salford Royal publicly.

  1. The case of Victoria General Hospitalscapacity issues

Imagine a 77-year-old war veteran with significant medical issues being left on a gurney in the hallway of a hospital for 5 days because the hospital was unable to cope with high patient volumes. This happened at Victoria General Hospital and gained a lot of publicity thanks to the tweets of the patient’s son Darren Laur, a retired staff sergeant with the Victoria City Police Department, saying ‘My dad is a symptom of a broken medical system.” The hospital apologized, moved him to a room, and promised to set up a procedure to ensure that such hallways stay are limited in future.

  1. When Cambridge Health Alliance failed to serve

Laura Levis died of an asthma attack, feet away from a locked emergency room outside Somerville Hospital, trying to get help. The Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance and the emergency medical response infrastructure were called out on a number of failures like unnecessary communication errors, overburdened staff with training issues, a lack of fail-safes, adequate lighting, proper signage, locked doors along with transparency and accountability. As 911 and the fire department struggled to locate her, the police called a nurse, who opened the locked door – with an unconscious Laura on the other side- but failed to locate Laura in the low lighting. Others found her three minutes later but she couldn’t be revived.

Finally, the hospital and the Cambridge Health Alliance met the husband and apologized and promised not only to improve their processes but also communicate the insights they derived from this, to the other hospitals in the country. The family waited for this apology for over two years and accepted it as sincere enough, but the world can see that it came only after the Boston Globe ran her husband’s account of the events.

  1. The case of a fatal dose at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Radonda Vaught, a (former) nurse for Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, administered a fatal dose of paralyzing anesthetic in the place of a routine sedative to a 75-year-old woman in late 2017, after overriding system safeguards. The Center tried to cover up this incident, probably looking upon it as an inadvertent error but it jeopardized its Medicare status. The hospital’s reputation doesn’t appear to have suffered any serious consequences, as people seem to recognize that the fault was an individual’s mistake rather than the institution’s fault in anyway as the nurse at fault actually overrode the safeguards when she made the mistake, which was almost immediately caught by an alert colleague.

  1. When the lack of oversight cost Hacienda Healthcare its reputation.

Sometimes a situation may prove beyond redemption, as with Hacienda Healthcare, Arizona which just closed down its 60-bed intermediate care facility. It was unwilling to continue operations after a 29-year old patient – in a vegetative state – gave birth to a child on account of sexual abuse from a licensed practical nurse at the center. After two doctors and the CEO quit, the non-profit company decided that patient safety is best served by closing down operations but drew criticism for not opting to increase oversight and set better checks and balances.

  1. Countering fake reviews with proactiveness

A gynecologist found an anonymous negative review posted online by someone claiming that a procedure he did caused harm to them. Knowing that he never performed such a procedure, the doctor replied, challenging the person to talk to the hospital directly. Then, the posting just vanished. The site reached out to the doctor and offered a reputation management tool which would allow him to hide up to three comments from public view for a higher fee and to get his name to pop up on a competing doctor’s page! Which, shockingly, translates to mean that a doctor with a real misdemeanor, like sexual misdemeanor, against him would be able to have a sterling online reputation as long as he pays the rating site to keep it concealed.

  1. Angel of death, not life

Mount Carmel Health System, Columbus, Ohio attracted 19 lawsuits over wrongful deaths which resulted from the actions of its Dr. William Husel who ordered potentially fatal medication for about 34 patients.  Mt. Carmel apologized publicly for not putting the right processes in place to prevent such events of involuntary euthanasia, fired the doctor and fired or suspended about 20 other employees for not exercising their right to question the doctor’s actions.

  1. The case of ethnic discrimination

Some American scientists as well as the Massachusetts-based biotechnology giant Thermo Fisher were involved in the Chinese government’s plan to persecute the Muslim population of Uighurs in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. While the scientists provided the knowledge and additional genetic material needed for China to collect biometric and genetic data pertaining to all these people, Thermo Fisher supplied the DNA sequencers needed for this project. The company’s initial response to human rights groups who question this was that “it is not possible for us to monitor the use or application of all products we manufactured.” But the issue snowballed with the Senator for Florida calling for action against the use of American technology in human rights violations by the Chinese authorities. Thermo Fisher has just changed its stand to say that it had taken account of “fact-specific assessments,” and that it recognizes “the importance of considering how our products and services are used—or may be used—by our customers.” Further developments are awaited.

Anyone can be rated or reviewed online, and the reviewer may or may not reveal their identity when doing so. These reviews and comments will stay on the Internet forever and will only need a little digging to be revealed. There are agencies which provide services which promise to improve one’s rating. Ultimately, all that matters is how one accepts the feedback and modifies one’s actions suitably to convince the world that they didn’t deserve such a review or that they have learned their lesson from it.

Top Free Tools to Monitor your Online Reputation

Online reviews are a boon and a bane at the same time! They work better than any word-of-mouth publicity with positive reviews. That’s because 84% of people who access them, also believe everything that is said and readily base their decisions on them. But what if these reviews are negative? They can be the bane of existence for a business, especially one which does not offer the quality needed to survive against its competition.  As Darwin said a long time ago, it is the nature of things to have the fit only survive. The rest have to improve or perish.

Reviews come in very useful for growth and businesses bent on surviving and succeeding in a competitive atmosphere must pay due attention to them to learn about their own areas of improvement. Unless the reviews are malicious and fraudulent, no one can question the right of a reviewer to voice any opinion, however defamatory nor can the comments be expunged. This makes managing our online reputation with due attention an important component of our competitive strategy. Potential customers watch every comment we make in response to such reviews and make their own assessment of us.

Our online reputation is spread over a number of platforms, some of which maybe unknown to us we find a review of our products or services posted on it. Let’s try and list some of them.

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Linkedin
  • Your own blog/website
  • Twitter
  • Mouthshut
  • Online Retailers (ex. Amazon)
  • Instagram
  • Quora
  • Trip Advisor
  • Yelp
  • Yellow Pages
  • Angie’s List
  • Manta
  • Foursquare

These are only representative of the number of places where someone can go and vent their frustration with us (or appreciation of us). There are many more forums, support groups, specialized websites etc. which invite people to share their thoughts too, all of which just help to expand the scope of our anxiety, if not night terrors. The increasing adoption of mobile devices makes it even more easy to spread the reviews, given how prominently they are displayed on a mobile.

Online reputation management today is a science and an art, combined. It requires you to establish a set of techniques and strategies to monitor and resolve negative reviews/feedback, get the fraudulent ones removed or promote yourself positively. How do you keep track of all the reviews and ratings which mention you by name, across online directories, search engines and social media channels? You can use some of these free tools which can help you to track and manage your online reputation.

Let’s see what some of the more popular ones have on offer.

  1. BuzzSumo

    This tool offers a simple dashboard which brings content sharing analytics and influencer identification together. You can search for the most popular and shared content on a given topic and even identify the influencers who shared it. Another helpful feature lets you find influencers based on keywords and hashtags. Using this tool, content marketers can identify the content that is working well and know the individuals whose endorsement can help them to market their own content better. The influencers can be filtered by type as bloggers, journalists and companies, allowing a content marketer to engage with the group most relevant to their needs.

  2. Followerwonk

    This tool allows you to search through Twitter users and their bios using certain keywords. You can find the individuals with the greatest reach and followers as their word will carry the most authority. Then you can try and get them to review your product or services. The tool also offers some free analytics features which enable you to compare the followers of two or three different Twitter accounts, to enable you to see which of the social media influencers are following your competitors but not following you.

  3. GoFish

    This is a search tool which shows you the negative reviews for your keywords from over 40 websites to help you respond to them, flag them or have them removed. Offers some paid services too.

  4. IFTTT

    This free tool helps you automate simple online tasks like sending text messages or turn on or off the lights in your smart home. People can also set this up to respond with a direct message when an RSS feed alerts them of a new mention of your name.

  5. Klear

    This tool helps you target influencers by filtering them using a number of qualifiers and to identify power users against novices to broaden your reach by choosing right. The tool’s demographic features allow you to see the types of followers the influencers are attracting to choose the right group to target. The tool provides you with detailed reports on each of your campaigns, ensuring a high ROI.

  6. Kred:

    This is a basic tool which helps users to measure the metrics around influence like mentions, retweets, replies and followers on Twitter. It offers an outreach score which is based on mentions, retweets and replies. Both together help us to measure how active and influential an individual is with a given community.

  7. TweetReach

    Using this tool, you can get an analysis of the latest 100 tweets on a specific subject, using keywords and hashtags, to identify the top 100 contributors and the most retweeted tweets to find the influencers on a given topic. You can also get an estimate on the reach and exposure of the search term you are researching.

  8. PeerIndex

    This tool identifies influencers based on their ability to drive conversations and actions, instead of just the volume of content shared by them or even their follower count. Start finding the real influencer voices on a range of niche topics.

  9. TweetDeck

    Their search function is excellent and they let you save your searches, and see them get updated in real time. Build lists of accounts and create updating columns, create segments to get a collection of curated timelines as you track the tweets of all the influencers on your list.

  10. Smart Moderation

    This is an AI tool which allows you to hide or delete comments you do not want on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. It helps you monitor the buzz around your name for $199/month.

  11. Social Mention

    This free tool lets you monitor specific brand keywords and lets you see the top keywords, top users, sentiments, hashtags and networks. It searches blogs, microblogs, social networks, images and videos.

  12. SocialReport

    This tool enables social media management by tracking brand mention on any part of the web, to get analytics, social scheduling, a smart inbox with task management, keyword monitoring, automated responses, custom reports, and API integrations. You can have a free trial, after which it’s $49 plus per month.

  13. Traackr

    This tool offers a range of solutions which help businesses manage their influencer marketing campaigns, communicate with influencers easily, track and validate your campaigns, compares your social influence with that of your competition and measure your growth over time.

  14. Yotpo

    This tool proactively helps you improve your reputation by encouraging customers to provide positive reviews by sending review requests immediately after a purchase. Its paid version provides superior results in customizing reviews and deriving more feedback from customers.

You can also check out other tools like AgoraPulse, BirdEye, Broadly, Customer Lobby, Future Solutions, ImageRaider, Podium, Reputation911, ReviewBuzz, Rocket Referrals or ReviewTrackers.

It’s important to note here that although these tools are all really helpful in many ways, the free models are never robust enough for you to be assured of a full control over your reputation as the features are provide only basic support. Of course, it’s up to you to decide if you want to upgrade or somehow manage with an inefficient version.

Setting up an online reputation system and team?

When visiting a new city, most people request Google to recommend the ‘best restaurants near me’. The numbered list they get back in nanoseconds clearly ranks the restaurants near them by popularity. Ever wondered how the owners of the restaurants at number 2, 3 or 10 must feel, if they browsed the same information, out of curiosity? What can one do to get to the top of the list? It’s not that easy!

The impeccable quality of one’s products or services doesn’t decide the issue anymore. Websites have user generated content and allow anyone and everyone to talk about anything under the sun and that would include your services and products. You can’t avoid any of these voices, opinions and reviews. One negative review or nasty comment online could mar one’s reputation and business prospects. This has made it imperative for businesses to stay ahead of the chatter and manage their online reputation with the attention and care it deserves.

Online Reputation Management best practices to consider

Your online reputation is what people think of you as a business. It is a fragile entity controlled by the public, requiring your active intervention as you keep receiving both negative and positive feedback. There are some best practices you can follow when managing your digital reputation.

  1. Establish processes to follow all the chatter online which mentions you, not forgetting that some of these could be business inquiries.
  2. Correct any inaccurate listing if you come to know of it, and address all reviews and defamatory postings online which refer to you, irrespective of the date on which it was posted. Use legal means to fight false reviews and have them removed. Untraceable and hidden attacks will need to be investigated by online analysts using email traces, data cross-indexing and other techniques.
  3. Put out positive content and ensure it is search optimized to get it ranked higher than the negative content, if you can’t get it removed.
  4. Deal with all reviews in a respectful and professional manner, clearly demonstrating your willingness to address their grievance and resolve issues. Offer a coherent explanation when disputing any inaccurate review. Remember, it’s hard to gain trust but very easy to lose it. Never hesitate to apologize when needed. You could take the conversation offline, and build rapport and trust with the reviewer.
  5. Request for a ‘second chance’ – Request really unhappy customers to give you a second chance, and make sure that you deliver on your promise. Be quick to respond, in a matter of minutes. People have lost millions for not responding promptly as it looks like they are rejecting/ignoring the review. Know when to give up on a conversation which refuses to pick up, but make sure that disinterested observers can clearly see that you tried.
  6. Do a quick hashtag search at regular intervals to catch the chatter about your business. Better still, assign a dedicated employee/team to ensure that no comment goes unattended. 

How to thing about your own Online Reputation Management team?

Among the things one needs to consider before putting together a team for managing their online reputation would be:

  1. The volume of reputational issues which need to be handled or responded to. Establish a baseline value for reputational issues by number and frequency.
  2. The general nature of these issues and the typical process followed in resolving them.
  3. Coverage of time & other SLAs: 24/7, Weekdays, any other

How about using an Online Reputation Management platform?

But, first, what about a Reputation Management Tool? These tools constantly monitor all the online chatter using a keyword-based search to zone in any mention of a specific name to see what is being said about them and by whom. If you already have a reputation management tool, carefully track its capabilities and measure what it can accomplish. To illustrate, here are some questions you can ask:

  1. What sources are covered by the tool? Can it follow all the chatter happening anywhere on the World Wide Web or just some platforms?
  2. Does it analyse the data collected and provide you with insights which are actionable?
  3. Does it provide you with user analytics, like influence score for a particular commenter, or provide insight into demographics and further segregate it by geography? After all, like filter coffee in South India, reviews change by location too.
  4. Do you get alerts when your brand is mentioned? Are they received in real time?
  5. How many seats do you have and what is your expenditure on deploying this product? How about planning the future, when you may need more seats?

All these considerations should help to clarify your thoughts as you put a team together to monitor or manage your online reputation. Broadly speaking, we can say:

  • A small to mid-sized business can live with a one-person team reporting to a CMO.
  • A public limited company needs to have at least a couple of seats as following news coverage is very important. Unfavorable news coverage can immediately have a negative impact on its stock prices.
  • A company which is consumer facing and deals with essential products and services needs a large team of customer service representatives dedicated to ORM. They should also have analysts to crunch the data and reports and figure out a corrective action after each incident. A well planned hierarchy should be put in place. Key metrics such as complaints handled/hour, TAT on issues, escalation measures should all be put in place. A support desk integration with the ORM platform helps with such high-volume incidents.

To quote Publilius Syrus, A good reputation is more valuable than money”. Do guard it well.

Reportedly, about 84% of people are supposed to rely on online reviews over personal recommendations as unbiased opinions fit to base their decisions upon. This makes it extremely important for companies to monitor and manage their reputation at all times. See that you put yours in place and empower them by providing them with access to a reliable social listening tool, like Auris.


Online Reputation Management – Words of Wisdom

Reputation is extremely fragile, like a mirror, requiring you to nurture it and care for it with devotion. However, it can be damaged in a matter of minutes and much like a broken mirror, may never allow you to put it back together. This makes it necessary for you to see that you watch over it and manage it with the utmost attention. Online reputation is essentially the same, except that you will never know where the attack is coming from, requiring you to stay alert for the slightest whiff of trouble at all times. Let’s quote Warren Buffet here, “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it”, to drive this thought home better than any of the myriad real life examples which prove this point.

The Internet hears and sees everything and forgets nothing. This makes the task of online reputation management very difficult. Let’s look at some opinions expressed by business leaders, politicians and intelligentsia in the matter of online management, which help to throw light on its importance and its fragility and guide us on how to protect it. Let’s look at some of them and see what their message is conveying to us.

‘Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what Google says it is’

– Chris Anderson, journalist and writer. This would include all the things that you have put out there, along with the comments and opinions posted by literally anyone online about you, with or without identifying themselves! We really must hope for competitors with some scruples.

‘The best place to hide a dead body is page two of Google search results!’

–Dharmesh Shah, Founder & CTO, Hubspot. Most people do not look beyond page 1 and if we fail to be among the top hits on a Google search, we may expect no real results from our online marketing efforts. Turn this thought around, and try hiding any negative information about your brand through sending them to the second page to successfully manage your reputation.

‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room’

– Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.He also said ‘A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.’Both are pertinent for online as well as offline reputations, for individuals and corporates alike.

‘Our reputation is more important than the last hundred million dollars’

– Rupert Murdoch states the financial side of reputation damage without mincing any words.

‘MySpace is like a bar, Facebook is like the BBQ you have in your back yard and LinkedIn is the office’.

– Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. As LinkedIn keeps experimenting with its format and services, these equations could change and may even vanish one day soon. However, it’s true that social networks an essential part of online presence management for a brand or its products, as they offer a company an opportunity to share its culture or values like superior customer service

‘If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place’

Eric Schmidt, Ex-CEO, Google. Voicing one of the most truthful statements ever for reputation, both online or offline. All your blogs, photos, videos, tweets, statements, posts, forums, press commentaries etc. have the potential to work for you and also against you, unless you are careful.

‘For a business leader somewhat in the spotlight, it is impossible to hide’

Cédric Manara, renowned Internet Lawyer, putting in perspective, the impossibility of enjoying a private life, when one is in the spotlight. Be it a spouse’s death or a divorce, it becomes impossible for most of them to grieve in private and stay away from prying eyes. If the event threatens one’s reputation, containment becomes even harder, if not impossible. It makes prevention a priority, as with the other nasty things in life.

‘As a general rule, a reputation is built on manner as much as on achievement’,

Joseph Conrad, renowned author in his book Secret Agent. This holds equally true for the behaviour of human beings as it does to their online interactions.

‘Unfortunately, your reputation often rests not on your ability to do what you say, but rather on your ability to do what people expect’,

Bryant H. McGill, renowned author. We can see the truth of this when we witness the brutal trolling faced by well-meaning statements and assurances, especially from political leaders.

‘Reputation is an outcome; but it is also a valuable, strategic asset’,

– Andrew Griffin, a well known technology editor. Anyone whose reputation took a beating online would readily agree with him.

‘In a digitally connected world a byte of data can boost or bite your brand’,

Bernard Kelvin Clive, renowned author and thinker. This is one of his mantra for online brand building.

‘A good reputation is more valuable than money’,

Publilius Syrus, a renowned Latin writer. We agree with him.

‘If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they will do business with you’,

Zig Ziglar, a renowned author. The same holds true for one’s online reputation management.

‘The reputation of a thousand years may be undermined by the conduct of one hour’,

a Japanese Proverb, which has obviously stood the test of time to stay relevant to this day.

‘Gain a modest reputation for being unreliable and you will never be asked to do a thing’,

Paul Therouxin, a renowned writer. An insightful quote which should put us on guard.

‘Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be’

John Wooden in another great quote. He has also said to ‘Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.’

Publicity is absolutely crucial. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad’,

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.

The secret of crisis management is not good vs. bad, it’s preventing the bad from getting worse’,

Andy Gilman, Founder of CommCore

‘Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition’,

Abraham Lincoln, former President of the United States, in this highly inspirational quote.

‘There is no professional or personal anymore. There’s simply your brand, and it’s up to you to determine whether your brand is affected positively or negatively. That’s it. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong’,

Peter Shankman, renowned entrepreneur and editor – summing up the entire wisdom available on online reputation management.

To avoid situations which can damage your reputation, set up a monitoring system that will anticipate the risks to your reputation and help you to control the damage in time. Monitoring is an essential and unavoidable aspect of online reputation management these days.

Listen to the demands on your brand, so that you can react to contain the damage, before it can spread like wild fire and go completely out of control! Talk to us today, to learn how Auris can help you achieve your goals.