5 Rules for Writing a Negative Review That Will Make Your Fertility Clinic Listen

By Griffin Jones

"If you're not a size 5, this doctor does not want to help you."

"After trying to contact the Dr. several times, I realized that no-one at this facility gave a crap, or even pretended to care".

"_____ is the worst doctor one can go to...I wanted to smack him right in his office."

Yikes. These are what negative fertility clinic reviews look like sometimes. These aren't hypothetical examples. They are real reviews of fertility doctors in three different U.S. cities. The reviewers may have needed to vent their frustration. Research from Harvard University shows that the stress and anxiety caused by infertility are equal to that caused by cancer. If you are writing a review about your fertility clinic, you may want to use the opportunity to release some of the tremendous frustration and anxiety. Your doctor or practice may be the person to release that on to. Heck, he or she might even deserve it. If your goal is simply to vent your pain and project that on to someone who may be partly responsible, I understand. I do it too often, for far less serious affairs. I make Delta Airlines feel my wrath on Twitter every time I fly with them. It doesn't solve the issue, but I feel a little better. For couples spending thousands of dollars on an emotionally draining fertility journey, the yearning for vindication must be very strong when they are failed.

If your goal is to be heard and listened to, however, may I suggest another approach? As someone that helps fertility centers respond to negative and positive reviews, I would much rather you feel the lasting vindication of a corrected problem than temporary relief. I want your problem to be corrected (most of the time it can be, one way or another) and I want the practice to get better. The way you write your review often determines what is done with the information it contains.

Google recommends that your criticism be constructive, because "business owners often use feedback to improve their offerings". In fertility terms: we don't want your legitimate disappointment to be interpreted as an inevitable byproduct of infertility's emotional burden . That perception won't benefit the practice or the prospective patient reading the review. If the comments are vindictive, as opposed to constructive, the practice may perceive your bad experience as inevitable. We want them to view it as evitable (that's not a word). We want reproductive endocrinologists (RE) to use reviews as measurable action items for improvement. If negative reviews are inevitable, then there's nothing to improve upon to avoid them.

If you were wronged in your experience, it should be rectified. Don't you at least want other people to heed your advice so they don't incur the same mistreatment? The prospective patient needs to be able to hear your concerns apart from your frustrations. Venting may be better suited for Instagram posts, private Facebook groups, support groups,  and forums. Review sites are  places to be heard because they carry weight with the practice and they influence the person making the decision to schedule a consultation. I advise fertility clinics  on how to respond to negative reviews, so that the practice listens to their patient. Here's how you can write reviews that practices and other patients will listen to:

1). Share a brief background about your journey: You have two audiences. The second is the fertility center. The first is the person who's deciding which practice she should go to. The more you have in common with your audience, the more they will pay attention to you. Whether you're fighting PCOS or coping with secondary infertility, it will help someone to know that.  Write two or three sentences about the problems you've been facing, for how long, and how it's made you feel. Forget the details that don't help you connect with your reader. 

2). Refrain from name calling and cursing. I tell fertility clinics not to respond to "vindictive reviews" which include the presence of vulgarity, name calling, and/or lack of reference to a particular problem. If someone calls the doctor "a complete idiot", the dialogue is already too hostile for us to participate. The entry to the conversation is closed before it's ever opened. The same goes for four letter words and other offensive language. To remain professional, the clinic/doctor has to keep away from these combative zones.

3). Give the benefit of the doubt when referring to people by name. Some review guidelines, like this one from Lifehacker, recommend leaving out proper names entirely. I disagree. Your review is a log of the most important events of your experience. If you really feel that someone from the billing office was exceptionally rude, or that your physician didn't listen to you, those details belong in your log. Just give the person the benefit of the doubt before you light them up. Show the reader that the issue is not a personal conflict between you and the team member. Offer the benefit of the doubt, then describe the problem. Example: "I know Dr. Blank has to see a lot of patients, but I really felt let down by how little time I had with him." By focusing on your feeling rather than the team member's short coming, the practice can do the same.

Because this reviewer gave the physician the benefit of the doubt, we weigh the rest of the review with more deliberation.

Because this reviewer gave the physician the benefit of the doubt, we weigh the rest of the review with more deliberation.

4). Mention redeeming qualities if applicable: The doctor was late, the billing staff was rude, but if there was a nurse that made an extra effort to make you feel comfortable, that is worth mentioning. If it was an all around awful experience, don't force a compliment; it's important for people to know. Still, including a positive mention allows the reader to see your standard for what is acceptable and what isn't. Your experience informs your judgement, rather than blinds it.

5). Tell us what you had hoped for. Stating your expectations allows the practice to see exactly where they didn't meet your standards. It gives them actionable opportunities to improve and to correct the issue you're having. For example, "I hoped I would have a half hour with Dr. Blank, but instead I only saw him for two minutes." The practice can assess that they either need to allot more time for patient visits, or notify people that visits are very short. "I thought that insurance would cover these medications, but I had to pay out of pocket," shows the practice that they have to invest more time in helping people with insurance claims.

How to respond to negative fertility clinic reviews

You have a right to vent and a right to be listened to.  Exercise both, just exercise them separately. If you want to be heard, you will be better served by leaving a concise, focused review, even if it's a one-star rating. You have two audiences: the practice themselves, and the prospective patient using these reviews to make their decision. There is a chance that the practice will consider your concerns, and make an effort to correct the situation. If they do, thanking them or upgrading your review will encourage them to take patient feedback very seriously. If they do not, then they deserve the negative impact that it has on their reputation. Twenty years ago, you would have had very little power to express your thoughts and feelings. Today you have the power to affect infertility treatment for the better. Use it wisely.