Reputation Management: Boosting occupancy and the bottom line

five stars in a row

All companies, regardless of size or industry, rely on their reputations to attract new clients, maintain the bottom line and retain and recruit staff.  Unfortunately, the reputation of many healthcare providers took a beating like few other industries during the pandemic. From the capacity limitations of ER’s, to the move to virtual care, to outbreaks in senior care homes; the healthcare industry as a whole could not win.

Signs show that trust in the senior care sector is slowly rebuilding and it can continue to do so with a solid reputation management plan in place, with a key focus on your digital online presence, also known as ‘digital reputation management’. 

Let’s look at some stats:

  • 5% of all Google searches are health-related 
  • 79% run searches before booking an appointment at a senior care home
  • 94%  use online reviews to evaluate providers
  • it only takes 1 – 6 online reviews for potential clients to form an opinion about your company

What is reputation management?

Gartner defines reputation management as the practice of influencing stakeholder perceptions and public conversations about an organization and its brands. It includes monitoring perceptions and conversations, responding to reputation threats and proactively seizing opportunities to boost reputation.

Having a strong strategy in place provides you with an opportunity to counter negative feedback and build on positive mentions by monitoring, identifying and influencing your digital reputation and credibility online.

Three common types of reputational risks

  1. Direct actions by your company and company practices. For example, not complying with regulations, data breaches, legal actions, poor quality products or services or poor working conditions for staff.
  1. Actions by staff, leaders, investors or anyone that represents your business such as unethical conduct, misrepresenting a product or service to clients or misconduct toward clients.  
  1. Actions taken by partners or suppliers can be as damaging to your reputation as actions taken by your own management or staff.

Why you need to care

Nowadays, everyone looks a business or product up online as the first step in their research. Therefore, your first digital interaction matters because:

  • 94% of consumers say that a bad review convinced them to avoid a business
  • 70% said they would not recommend the company to their friends and colleagues; and, 
  • 18% would take the issue to social media.

When more than 80% of your potential clients are checking out your company online and are so easily turned away by negative reviews, you need to have a strong, proactive strategy in place.

Then there are potential investors. Why would any investor want to associate themselves with your brand if you have a poor online reputation? You can bet that an important aspect of an investor’s due diligence is determining any reputational risks they may face by investing in your business.

Need another compelling reason? Today, more than 90% of companies are using social media for recruiting. Statistics show that 83% of respondents to a survey said they’re influenced by reviews when making application decisions and almost half reported that company reputation influences their job offer decisions. 75% said they would not be willing to work for a company with a bad reputation—even those without jobs. People want to feel good about where they work. 

So where do you start?

Like your business or emergency planning strategy, you need to understand the company’s position by auditing how its brand is currently positioned in the marketplace. 

Start by researching what people say about you online using search engines such as Google and Bing, social media and through review websites. Use specific keywords to lead you to news articles, videos, social media and blogs where people may have shared their experience with your brand.  

Once this audit is done, you can identify your brand reputation and weaknesses. A typical tool is to use a SWOT analysis which identifies your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

A critical and often overlooked step is engaging with your staff. Are they even aware of the company’s goals?  Is there any training on ethical behaviour, and what behaviours are you trying to associate with your brand? Have you consulted them about developing that brand? What are they hearing on the ground? What do they feel needs to be improved? How can you help them deliver on your company’s reputation and vision?

Staff is your best source of intelligence when it comes to understanding the daily impacts on your reputation. 

Once you have done your research, the next step is to determine how to measure your reputation in your care community. Look at what other companies are doing so that you can set realistic and attainable benchmarks. Be very specific about when, how and who responds to specific situations. It’s a proven fact that the faster you respond to negative feedback, the more likely you can turn it around into a positive experience. Also, plan for how you respond and promote positive reviews and ways to solicit feedback so you are constantly monitoring progress against goals. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a phone call to convert 

By protecting your online reputation, you increase the chances of calls being made inquiring about your services. This is where superior customer service pays off:

  • calls will influence $1trillion in US consumer spending this year
  • phone calls convert ten to 15 times more revenue than web leads
  • callers convert 30% faster than web leads
  • 81% of healthcare marketers believe inbound calls and phone conversations are a key component of their organization’s digital-first strategy
  • Consumers researching senior care homes, physical therapists, and chiropractors are the most likely to call healthcare providers after performing a search

When a healthcare provider does a good job of personalizing customer interactions, 49% of clients feel like they care about earning their business and 47% are more likely to choose them.

Personalization can have a direct impact on client loyalty. This requires regular training for all staff on your brand promise and how they can help to live it, especially when it comes to anyone handling incoming calls or responding to feedback from clients.

The final word

There’s an old business adage that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. It’s clear that the by-product of carefully nurturing, measuring and monitoring your reputation is your ticket to: 

  • financial stability
  • attracting and retaining highly-skilled staff
  • encouraging new clients to become part of your senior care community
  • being respected and setting the standard by which your peers judge themselves 
  • meeting your compliance and regulatory requirements 

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