I just bought my first online review, and I feel dirty.
Most days, I am extremely proud of our team. These are the days that I am helping serve dinner in a community and I see the love and care that are provided to our residents. The days when I spot a CNA sitting outside with a resident in a wheelchair singing to celebrate a sunny day, fill my soul. We care for hundreds of residents across multiple states, and I know that our hearts are there, our execution is good, and our team is committed… because I see it with my own eyes.
Then, when driving home after a day filled with passion, a notification flashes on my phone from the Google ‘My Business’ application. It says, ‘you received a 1-star review,’ and my heart sinks. After investigating with our team, I remain confident in how we worked with the family for months and went well beyond the call of duty to serve with compassion and understanding. Yet, a granddaughter, who rarely (if ever) visited her grandmother in one of our memory care communities, posts a scathing review that lives within our community’s digital footprint forever.
Although, giving power to the consumer is a wonderful advancement in justice provided by the internet, the pendulum has swung. Senior communities across the world are being vilified with no reasonable way to respond, as a response to a negative online post can be so delicate that most of us choose to ‘let it go.’ The anonymity of the internet can lead to unfair or potentially even slanderous reviews, but the business has no recourse. Not only is there incredible fear in responding online, but circumstances can be so complex, not to mention confidential, that a senior living community is compelled to stand down from defending themselves.
Our business has logged millions of resident days filled with love, warmth and true depth, and a single, mostly anonymous review, sometimes posted by a competitor, can crush the spirits of those that truly care for their residents. My first reaction is to FIGHT, and fight with vigor. I have personally pounded out dozens of responses, each intended to share the truth, defend our team, and restore honor to our community. Each time, I delete them, and instead post ‘We would love to talk about your concerns. Please reach out to us directly at… ‘ They never reach out.
It is a true shame that we, as a society, only provide reviews when we perceive that we have been wronged. We care for thousands of residents a year, and I hear stories daily about outstanding compassionate care and selfless acts of kindness. Unfortunately, it takes incredible effort to get a satisfied customer to post a positive review, only for Yelp to remove it because it tripped their algorithm that removes customer reviews that seem solicited, or Google’s algorithm that keeps the review, but doesn’t post it to your ‘star’ rating.
This morning, out of desperation, I resorted to the unthinkable. I bought my first online 5-star review. It cost me $20, and even though it hasn’t been posted yet, I already feel dirty. I have resorted to playing ‘the game’ that is now required of business in internet era. I don’t know if this is a reasonable strategy to preserve our reputation, but I had to at least try. Our team deserves a protector, so if I can’t carry a sword into battle, at least I will carry a shield.
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