Action Plan For Online Complaints and Negative Reviews

Overcoming Complaints and Negative Reviews in the Assisted Living Industry
When it’s YOUR company that is being complained about, it can feel like you’re being “flamed” by someone like this!


The assisted living industry is not much different from the hospitality industry in more than a few ways. I spent more than 20 years serving people in restaurants and hotels, guests who were often already cocked and loaded with complaints and miseries before the even came through the front door.

You just can’t win with some people. That’s a fact. A guest’s bad day will be funneled through and amplified by the burger and less-than-fine china that he or she is not enjoying it on – straight onto page one of Google.

I had a prominent heart surgeon, one day, in the restaurant I was managing, stand up in the middle of a busy dining room, screaming that if he had given his patient on the operating table the same lack of attention and expertise that we did to his under-cooked Bacon-Cheeseburger (irony here?) – his patient would be dead.

After that incident, I almost wanted to be. It was then that I decided that a career-shift was in order.

Things Have Changed

But, “back in the day,” one could be a little more nonchalant about disgruntled guests. They would likely leave, perhaps tell a few friends or perhaps family that live out of state (so it wouldn’t matter anyways) and never come back. One loss among many satisfied patrons was really to be expected on almost any given day.

We moved on and forgot easily.

Today, the complaints and reviews have a wider, more easily accessible, savvy and vocal audience, and unlike 1995, the reviews stick around, digitally immortal, only to grow and fester over time – unless they are managed, and possibly (yes, possibly) turned into an opportunity.

It’s Easier To Complain, And More People Are Listening

A relative of mine lives in an assisted living facility.

Bless their hearts for putting up with her, and I thank the universe on the facility’s behalf that she would not know how to use a computer even after spending a week of 1:1 time with Bill Gates.

She’s a hard-wired complainer and she always has been. If she won the lottery, that would barely offset her displeasure that they ran out of peach cobbler in the dining room that day.

It’s more pronounced, now, living in the facility at her age, with her multitude of health issues, pills to be taken, and discomfort, who wouldn’t be? Such is the nature of the assisted living industry, and unlike working in a restaurant or hotel, where your goal is to make your guest happy and comfortable – an assisted living home is really, at it’s essence, there to keep the guest, or resident as far away from being unhappy and uncomfortable, if possible.

A facility is bound to fail at this eventually – either in reality, or through the lens of Alzheimer’s or dementia-clouded perception.

You Have To Expect, and Be Prepared For, Online Complaints

Sooner or later what happened, whether true or not, may likely make it’s way onto Google reviews, or Angie’s list – or the hundreds of other lesser known, un-reputable, nary-managed, questionable, yet well-ranked senior care sites.

Our moms, dads and grandparents are becoming more tech-saavy every year, and with the advent of easy-to-use tablets, laptops and phones, those who are long-term care residents can be, and stay connected, and have a public voice beyond the secured doors of their shared home.

It’s a powerful thing, as they are learning, to be able to vent your frustrations, and have them be seen at the top of a Google search result with a rant on Google local, or ‘outing’ an unprofessional facility administrator on Yelp.

From here, it’s up to the business owner to take this wobbly ball, and make it into a positive play.

People Who Are Dissatisfied Are More Likely To Complain and Post (Negative) Reviews

I would like to think that most reasonable people would expect any established business to have a few negative reviews. Just like the most watched, viral video on YouTube will have a percentage of “thumbs downs” – even the Ritz Carlton may have served lukewarm coffee on an off-day to the wrong person who happened to be logged into Yelp at that exact moment.

Complainers like to be heard.

Have The Courage (And The Insight) To Respond Positively To Negative Comments

What I do respect, and take notice of, are business owners that take the time to address those issues publicly, in responses to those reviews or complaints online, placing ownership and a name behind their reputation.

As I was researching hotels for a trip recently, there wasn’t much available in the small town I was to be visiting. The choice came down to two, and the nationally-branded chain that I wanted to stay in had a few bad write-ups. Normally, that would have been enough to sway me to the other choice, however, the manager of the poorly-reviewed properly took the time to respond to the critics, explaining that there have been some positive management changes, and the issues that had been spotlighted by other guests have been resolved.

I stayed with the national chain and had a wonderful experience. I appreciated their hands-on effort to defend their online reputation, and they certainly delivered.

I was inspired to write a positive review for them, which bumped the few less than stellar ones down the list (and encouraged others) – to confirm that the manager had delivered on his promise.

Action Plan For Online Reviews Management And Success

Hotel, restaurant, assisted living facility, or any other business can do a few things to overcome negative reviews, and complaints – and to build a positive online reputation:

1) Take time to look at what people are saying about your business online. Some of the major players are Google, Google Local, Yelp, and Angie’s List. You’ll need to have a gmail account and a Google profile to be able to respond to or address Google reviews. Sign up for Yelp, and complete your business profile and include photos on all of the major sites and search engines.

2) Sign up for a Google News alert for your business name. You’ll get a daily email from Google with any new mentions of your business online, or in news articles.

3) Manage your reviews. For the good ones, take time to offer thanks to those who took the time. This will encourage more people to participate, and will give you extra visibility and legitimacy wherever your business or facility appears.

For negative reviews or complaints, take the time to respond to them, and explain what efforts you have taken to resolve any issues, perceived or real. Invite the reviewer to come back for a repeat visit, or to talk to you, the owner or management personally. Offer lunch with it as an added incentive.

4) Encourage your residents or guests to participate in reviews. I do believe that, unfortunately, bad experiences are much more likely to be vocalized or published than good ones. With a little nudging, your satisfied clientele will likely be happy to give your business a glowing writeup.

5) Take an active part in participating on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +, as well as making sure your businesses website and online presences rank well with expert, authoritative content. The more your business appears online through your own efforts, the less opportunity a negative blogger will have to be as visible.


In short, work to be the primary lens through which people see you, and your business. Of course, the lens may get smudged from time-to-time, but can be easily cleaned with a little effort.


Photos by Capt’ Gorgeous,

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