Page Banner

How to Respond to Negative Comments

If you have not already you will receive a negative comment on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, etc. This is also a stumbling block for hospitals in their pursuit to maximize the use of social media. Most hospitals do not want to participate or truly be transparent online because they feel they are opeing the door to negative comments.

Two thoughts:

  1. No one is waiting on you so they can have a place to make negative comments. If someone has something they want to share they will. Good or bad…
  2. If you do not participate in the discussion online around your brand how then do you even know about the comments that are out there and better yet how can you respond.

Service recovery is a teaching point in hospitals, and this should carry over to the digital world. Here are a couple of pointers I give hospitals when dealing with negative comments.

  1. Have a policy – You need something to fall back on when negative comments turn to improper comments.
  2. Have a pre-approved statement you can modify – Responsiveness is important when connecting with negative reviews or individuals who have an issue and post online.
  3. Make sure the “real” people are on board – In a hospital most negative comments revolve around an ER visit or a billing issue, so make sure those key leaders understand the plan.
  4. Do NOT delete the comment – Much has been discussed and written on this so I will only say it ends bad for the brand. The only time this makes sense is if it violates a policy that has been set forth – language, slander, etc.
  5. Make sure you not a liar – If your response is telling the consumer that “Sally” will be following up then make sure this happens. There is no doubt that “Sally” is busy and doesn’t understand the impact of this scenario like you do.
  6. Connect the dots –  Once a resolution is met then circle back with those involved so they truly understand why you did not delete the comment, and what any subsequent posts said after they connected with the consumer.

The goal in most cases is not to have the entire conversation online. No one want to have a back and forth on Facebook about a billing issue. So the key is to acknowledge the comment and give the consumer confidence that this discussion will take place offline. Here is a version of the statement I recommend:

John – Thank you for taking time to connect with us online. I am very sorry your expectations were not met on your recent visit to Big Medical Center. We would love the opportunity to connect and visit further about your experience. Sally Smith our Chief Nursing Officer will be reaching out, but if you would like to try her directly you can do so by calling 555-1212.

Here is a real example of how this played out via Facebook:


“Hospital” Your customer service is the worst! I’ve never had such a bad experience dealing with bill payment and account management. Total incompetence are the words that come to mind.

If you want to become a player – fix your billing and customer service. Until then – count me out. Your outsourced biller is incompetent.


Your satisfaction is a top priority for us. We are sorry you are having an issue with you bill. If you can visit (web address) and provide us a way to follow up with you we would love to opportunity to visit further.


I’d be happy to discuss. Will submit my contact info and let everyone know how it works out.


Impressed. Just received a follow-up call from Tish at “Hospital.” She resolved my issue on the spot. Thanks for the help and great care after my surgery. My wife and I are expecting – look for us at the “Hospital” this September.

Question: Has responding to negative comments changed at organizations over the past few years?


Author Info

Reed Smith