We Are Better than We Think We Are

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As active dental practitioners, we are an amazing group of skilled professionals. As such, we should be regarded with well-deserved recognition. Yet the anonymous public is quick to criticize dentists. Faceless bloggers proudly proclaim themselves experts, fully-qualified to evaluate our abilities in our own profession. Online reviewers revel in their power to control other businesses by exploiting people’s insecurity. In this internet-driven economy, one negative word, however dubious the source, can sully the good name of the most conscientious, skilled professional. Sadly, even the best of us can lose sight of our own value in the face of such unfair criticism.

How many businesses have had complaints levied against them on public internet forums? Anonymous ratings sites have become so commonplace, we often overlook the flaws in their methods. Insiders know that one derogatory review in the space of one year is the mark of a superb dentist, but even one bad Yelp! comment can skew public perception, and call that dentist’s skills into question. What a potential patient may not realize is that having one derogatory review each year might translate (for example) into 1 dissatisfied patient out of 500 for a given practice. That’s a mere .2% patient dissatisfaction rate (or 99.8% patient satisfaction, if you prefer). The internet rating does not state that the one complaint is actually statistically insignificant when you consider the number of patients serviced by that practice, which would be the actual market base.

Obviously, there is a huge discrepancy between statistical fact and perceived reality, one which can have devastating effects on your business. Beyond any damage it may do to your reputation, unfriendly internet reviews can affect your self-esteem and self-perception as a dental professional. It’s normal to be fearful of a poor public image, and to let anonymous derision shake your confidence. It is important to remember that these reviews do not necessarily reflect your true value as a practitioner. For one thing, the casual reviewer almost never has the level of technical expertise necessary to properly, objectively critique a dentist’s work. And in many cases, “anonymous” may have ulterior motives: Internet marketing sites often fabricate false reviews, then try to get you to pay them to clean up the PR mess they, in fact, created.

The ratings-system perpetuated by these marketing machines is mathematically flawed, at best. It rests on statistically irrelevant data sets, for one thing, distorting the apparent weight of individual reviews. By presenting a company’s rating “score” as a percentage based (in many cases) on only a few actual reviews, these sites misrepresent key information to the consumer. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the same sites display complaints without any regard for when they occurred. This is unheard of within reputable ratings systems: licensing boards evaluate teachers and professors based on grades they received in the most recent year (or the results of the most recent test); even the IRS disregards tax returns after three years (unless they were based on fraud). By contrast, review sites often leave comments up for more than three years, regardless of whether their claims are fraudulent. How can they hope to present a fair and accurate assessment of any business using such outdated and poorly audited data? Rather than promote improvement of service, they only serve to deceive, and to promote the interests of predatory marketing schemes.

We have worked laboriously to master our chosen profession, and yet we are vulnerable to baseless attacks on our good names and our livelihoods. Despite these unjust obstacles, we strive for high patient satisfaction and approval ratings. We continue to hone our skills and expertise, and provide the highest level of care to our patients. But until internet rating sites provide a more comprehensive, statistical basis for their reviews, our public profiles not reflect our true value. For the meantime, just remember: we are better than we they think we are!

“We have worked laboriously to master our chosen profession”