Helping Win Hearts & Minds on
the Battlefields of Online Media
This Guy's a Mess
(on major review site)

Tabitha W.'s Review

Buyer beware. I contacted NeuroFeedback XYZ nearly a year ago for an insomnia problem. I'd tried neurofeedback many years ago and it was somewhat helpful. I liked the idea of getting treatments at home. I paid $500 for the first 6 treatments. At that time I found Robert Mayer attentive and compassionate. I felt like I got some improvement, and Robert said it was very important to keep taking treatments, because "continuity" mattered. So I ordered 20 more sessions for $1,500. Then things changed.

I stopped having improvement after the first few sessions. Robert tried different things but it was obvious neurofeedback was not going to work for me. Sometimes I actually slept worse right after a session. Robert agreed. He suggested transferring my unused sessions to my daughter because they were nonrefundable. She needed to sleep better and manage stress with school.

Things went from bad to worse with Robert. He came late to the sessions. Other times the equipment malfunctioned. Sometimes he missed sessions altogether, always making the excuse that I must have written down the wrong date. He then went on vacation. After that he needed to take weeks off for personal reasons. Apparently, "continuity" wasn't so important anymore.

Shortly after starting with Robert, I recommended a neighbor to him who also suffered from insomnia. Months later, she also reported the same problems I'd experienced. After paying for a large number of sessions, Robert became unreliable. He eventually disappeared.

When I complained that his service had gone downhill, Robert said my daughter was at fault because she wasn't really into the treatment. Then he said I had gotten more than my money's worth already and didn't owe me anything. That was the last time I spoke to Robert.

I believe neurofeedback has value for some types of insomnia but I don't recommend Robert's company.

Response Case Study:

Neurofeedback Provider Portrayed
as Unreliable, Unprofessional

    In this review, published on a major review site, a woman we'll call Tabitha W. seeks to prevent NeuroFeedback XYZ from getting new patients.

    On its face, Tabitha's review sounds rational, not emotional or overly biased. That's her intent. The truth is she seethed with hatred and vindictiveness and hoped her review would destroy our client's business. NeuroFeedback XYZ's attorney spoke with her a few times and offered a full refund, which she refused. She was abusive to the attorney, and he believes she has a mental illness.

    So does our client. He believes Tabitha's decline in responding to the neurofeedback may have been due to a depression issue. When he tried to convey this to her halfway through the sessions, she became angry, verbally abusive and difficult to deal with. Her daughter, who resumed the remaining contracted-for sessions, was also rude and disrespectful.

    In responding to reviews, contractors, auto mechanics and restauranteurs have some license to express exasperation, but healthcare providers need to be careful with the tone and posture they display. To win hearts and minds, they really need to appear to stay above the fray, and be seen as patient, professional, and ideally, compassionate.

    It's debatable as to whether this alternate health modality and responding to its reviews falls under HIPAA requirements. Rather than try to explain the technical issues, please know that the client's attorney approved our response and thought it quite good. In a straight HIPAA situation, to be safe, we wouldn't talk about number of sessions, nor even mention the reviewer's name or acknowledge they were a client (note the use of the term clients rather than patients).

    We do make the statement that we cannot speak about the medical conditions of clients and use this as an excuse not to address a lot of specific accusations. This is convenient, because it's rarely effective to go through a point-by-point defense in a response.

    We also don't address the response to the reviewer, but to other readers, i.e., prospective clients. We counsel this in responding to most negative reviews. (In responding to positive reviews, we usually speak directly to the reviewer. In HIPAA-compliant responses, we would not.)

    NeuroFeedback XYZ's Response
    As a healthcare professional, I cannot comment on the conditions of specific clients, no matter how tall a public tale they weave. I can share these facts:

    1) Tabitha and her family received the 26 sessions she purchased, plus 6 additional sessions at no charge.

    2) Of the 32 sessions, a total of two (2) appointments had to be rescheduled.

    3) Neighbor Rachel and her son both responded wonderfully to the treatments and we've never received a single word of complaint from them.

    To anyone interested in a non-drug solution for insomnia or anxiety, please do not be discouraged by negative experiences that may have a hidden agenda behind their telling. The NeuroFeedback XYZ program has helped hundreds of people return to normal healthy sleep without use of medication. It works for most people.

    If you have concerns, we'll connect you with one of our many clients who are happy to share their excellent results with others. And if you're still concerned, by our specific program or company, I urge you to research other neurofeedback professionals. We're passionate about the difference this treatment technology can make.

    This response looks simple, but analogous to Hemingway's iceberg theory, there's a lot beneath the surface you don't see. By omitting it, the communication is more powerful, the truth better revealed. Appointments had to be rescheduled, though we omit why they had to be rescheduled. Rachel and her son responded wonderfully and not a single word of complaint was heard from them, but there's much more to it that's not discussed.

    The positioning here is what public relations professionals call industry leadership. This is how we take the response way above the fray. Rather than seeming to worry about his own interest, our client comes across as being more concerned that Tabitha's review will discourage other people from trying neurofeedback. After offering to arrange conversations with former happy patients, Robert urges people to seek out his competitors if they are at all concerned about his company based on this review.

    Thus, we turn the tables on Tabitha, who says her issue is not with neurofeedback but with this particular company. We believe this response wins the battle for credibility. What do you think?