Business Strategy, Digital Marketing, SEO, Social Media

By Postali

No business is immune to negative reviews – even law firms, and it’s important that business owners respond to all reviews – especially negative ones.

Even if you do everything right, commit to your clients, and go above-and-beyond for their case, there is always a chance they may post a negative review. Maybe they didn’t agree with the judge’s ruling, or a disgruntled family member is posting about a situation they don’t understand. Maybe they didn’t like the toilet paper in the restroom or thought the parking was inconvenient? People leave feedback when they are emotional and you although you can’t stop it from occurring – you can control how you respond.

Seeing a negative review on Google, Avvo, or Facebook is disappointing and can drastically impact your overall review rating on the site it was published. And since the feedback is public and also able to be crawled by search engines, users reading that negative feedback could get a less than ideal first impression of your law firm

If you find yourself in the position of receiving a negative review one day and you see that ugly 1-2 star rating with a paragraph full of bitter language on your screen, it’s important to take a deep breath and think before responding.

How you respond is how the public will see you handle delicate situations, so it’s important to remember to keep your cool, as a careless response could make the situation worse. That’s why we put together a guide with Dos and Don’ts to help lawyers navigate the tricky waters of negative law firm reviews.

The Dos

Monitor Reviews Regularly

Reputation management is a key component to the success of your law firm. With over 93% of local consumers using reviews to determine if a local business is good or bad, you can’t afford to be disconnected.

Most review platforms have alerts or email notification options for whenever a review is published. With so many review channels out there, we found the following outlets receive the majority of legal reviews:

Google

Yelp

  • Add or claim your firm on Yelp for Business Owners.
  • This step by step guide outlines how to turn on Yelp email notifications.

Facebook

  • Although Facebook shifted from reviews to recommendations in 2018, the principal remains the same, and so does the importance of monitoring recommendations.
  • New recommendations appear in your notifications sections when logged into your account, or you can adjust your Business Settings to set up email alerts as well.

Martindale-Avvo

  • With a network of resources, like Martindale, Avvo, Lawyers.com and Nolo, chances are you already have an active listing on at least one. These industry-specific outlets allow for both peer and client reviews, which paints a well-rounded picture of you as an attorney.
  • For information on managing ratings and reviews on these sites, browse the Martindale-Avvo guide here.

Research the Client and Case

Before responding to a review, take the time to identify:

  • Who is posting the review?
  • Is the claim legit?
  • When did the case occur?
  • What could have been done better?

Sometimes people use an alias or nickname on their review accounts. This may require a bit more investigative work, but it’s important to understand the history associated with the negative review before replying.

Respond with Sincerity

With digital reviews, it is important to be conscious of your tone and language you use. You already have an upset client on your hands, the last thing you want to do is fuel the fire by posting a response that can be misinterpreted or seen as combative.

Here are a few ways to ensure your message is perceived as sincere:

  • Avoid using “emotional” punctuation such as exclamation points or multiple question marks.
  • Use empathetic phrases, such as “I understand your concern” or “We want to make this right.”
  • Address the reviewer by name to make it personal.
  • Thank them (Yep! We said thank the person writing negative stuff about you). Starting a response with “Thank you for the feedback” sets the tone that you are concerned and want to improve.

Encourage Positive Reviews & Share Them

While you can’t stop people from leaving a negative review, you can ask clients that you had positive relationships with to leave you a review. The more positive reviews you have, the higher your star rating will be, which does have an impact on your Google My Business Listing.

Platforms such as Avvo even allow you to send up to 50 emails to peers and clients requesting a review. Just be sure to tailor this list to exclude any foreseeable negative reviews, and write a personal message along with the request.

You can also get creative and share a positive review that someone left via Facebook on your Facebook page. We suggest asking the user for permission first, of course. Another way to share reviews is to add them to your website

Displaying reviews on your website or social media can increase conversion rates by 270% (Spiegel Research Center). Think of online reviews as the new “word-of-mouth.” By highlighting positive feedback, you start earning the trust of potential clients.

Consider the Broader Audience

Keep in mind that when you respond to negative reviews, its not just for the sake of responding to the reviewer. You are publishing content that is visible for all to see – including potential clients.

Use negative reviews as a way to showcase that you care about your clients, and take the time to address their concerns. According to Reviewtrackers, 45% of consumers say that they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.

Take it Offline and Request an Update

As you have probably experienced, people are usually more confident in spreading negativity from behind a screen, rather than confronting the person directly.

While we still encourage a digital response for your broader audience, there is value in making personal contact with the negative reviewer via phone or in-person. A short conversation may help settle things and resolve a miscommunication. You may even open the door for them to remove or update the review if all goes well.

Report Inappropriate Reviews

Most review platforms have strict guidelines on what is considered a valid negative review, and what is deemed inappropriate. These factors typically include profanity, harassment, violent or illegal language, and hate speech. That said, you have the right to flag these reviews and request their removal by taking the following actions:

The Don’ts

Ignore the Review

This goes for both positive and negative reviews, but since we are focusing on the negatives today, take note that 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. This means that not only should you respond, but you should show a negative review attention in a timely manner. This is your chance to showcase your side of the story and offer a solution. Once you completed some of the above “Dos,” such as researching the case and crafting a sincere message, post your response.

Engage in an Online Battle

We understand that as a lawyer you debate for a living, but online reviews are not the place for litigation. Take a moment to step back and refrain from appearing defensive or offensive. Your goal is to remain calm, collected, and genuine.

Avoid online confrontations because:

  • Online battles leave too much room for misinterpretation.
  • Not all negative reviewers are seeking a real solution; some just want a platform to vent.
  • The argument won’t produce the result you want.

Disclose Client Privileged Information

While we encourage you to empathetically respond to negative reviews, you must always put your professional safety first. Each case has its own vault of client information that is shared with you under the oath of discretion.

Even if you can easily squash the reviewer’s claim by referencing the details of the case, you may just be setting yourself up for trouble. Be mindful of the details you include in your review. We suggest keeping your response broad, and discussing the finite points offline.

Get Hung Up

It may be easier said than done, but with time you will understand that negative reviews are part of every business. In fact, 68% of customers trust reviews more when they see a mix of good and bad reviews.

If a business is showing 5-star ratings across the board without a single issue to report, this can raise a red flag in the mind of consumers. With spambots and trolls out there, it may be assumed that the positive reviews were falsely generated. Try to have faith in public, in that they will read through most of your reviews, and see a pattern of positivity.

Turn Off Reviews

Certain platforms, such as Facebook, allow you to turn off recommendations or reviews. We do not encourage this as it immediately raises concerns. As we mentioned, positive reviews have a lot of weight in how consumers base their decisions. By removing reviews altogether, you are severing that lifeline.

A few reasons to keep reviews active include:

  • You can showcase your exceptional customer service by letting others see how great your clients think you are.
  • It’s important to understand public opinion about your firm so you can improve.
  • Without an outlet to leave or read reviews, your firm comes off as untrustworthy.

Online Reviews: Tips & Tricks

Now that we have covered the Dos and Don’ts of managing negative reviews, here are a few ways to make the process easier.

Review Management Tools

There are monitoring tools out there that collect and compile reviews from a variety of sources. This removes the email alert dependency and relieves you of hopping in and out of multiple platforms. These tools show a collective feed of your firm’s reviews, and allow you to respond directly.

A few review monitoring tools are:

A reputation management tool is especially helpful if you have multiple firm locations, as you can monitor all of them in one place.

Compile a List of Responses

Sometimes the task of deciding what and how to respond to a review can cause attorneys to simply brush them aside. We suggest investing time in compiling a list of both positive and negative responses, or “templates,” that you can quickly reference and post.

The above-mentioned tools have this feature built-in to where you can choose your response from a dropdown menu. Be sure to tweak each response to include a personal touch, such as addressing the reviewer by name or interjecting (public) details about the situation at hand.

Set a Schedule for Responding to Reviews

This can apply to either you, your paralegal, or personal assistant. Designating one person to manage reviews is a great idea. Whoever holds the responsibility should set aside a certain amount of time to respond to all reviews and flag any incoming negative ones for further attention.

With practice and consistency, you can handle negative reviews the right way. Remember, everyone wants to feel that their opinion matters and that their voice is being heard. Learn to take a negative review and spin it into a positive.

If you need further assistance with your reputation management, contact Postali today!

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