Any business with an online presence has dealt with reviews from customers—both the good and the bad. Restaurants, apparel companies, law firms, and all types of companies and service providers recognize that at least a few of their clients will take the time to write a review to either encourage others to use the business or detail their dissatisfaction with the company and warn others to take their business elsewhere. While most authentic reviews tend to highlight the favorable aspects of the product or service, negative reviews can (and do) happen—even to the most upstanding and reputable of businesses. Even though your law firm may worry about receiving a negative review, a disgruntled client may write one despite your best efforts to provide top-tier service. Receiving a less-than-stellar review from an unhappy client is one thing, but how will their review affect how potential clients view your law firm? How will this negative comment impact your firm’s reputation or ranking among the search results pages? First, it’s essential to recognize that receiving a negative review is not the end of the world. Instead, take a deep breath and reframe this event as an opportunity to showcase your law firm’s commitment to client satisfaction and excellent service. This post will explore some of the most strategic steps you can take after receiving a critical client review to demonstrate the poise, professionalism, and responsiveness your firm imbues into every action and decision you make.
Just How Much Do Online Reviews Matter?
Before the internet, most people made purchasing decisions based on personal recommendations. For example, if they needed a mechanic, they often asked their friends and family to recommend such a professional to handle the job. With the ubiquity of the internet, the majority of consumers use customer reviews to influence their decision to purchase an item or move forward with a particular service provider. According to most estimates, over 93 percent of consumers say that online reviews have an impact on their buying decisions. Additionally, 95 percent of consumers report that they have written (or would consider writing) at least one online review in 2022; in contrast, only 4 percent of consumers stated that they would never write an online review. Interestingly, customers are 50 percent more likely to choose a business because of an online review than a discount offer. If these statistics and figures are any indication, it’s clear that potential customers rely on online reviews to influence their decision to engage with a particular law firm or attorney. Acknowledging the power of online reviews is the first step in developing an effective strategy for managing and responding to client reviews.
How Online Reviews Impact SEO Performance
In addition to influencing public perception of your law firm, client reviews play a considerable role in search engine optimization (SEO) performance. Search engine algorithms like Google use online reviews to determine how reliable and trustworthy your business is, which affects where your website will appear in the search results pages. For instance, a law firm with dozens of favorable client reviews will likely appear higher in the search results pages than a firm with only two lukewarm reviews. Essentially, a higher star rating rank (i.e., an average of four or more stars) means that Google will rank your website higher than that of a firm with a lower star rating rank average. However, the quality of the reviews also matters—if Google thinks that your reviews are fake, bot-generated, or suspiciously inflated, it will rank your website matter. Ideally, your law firm continues to receive a steady stream of client reviews that are mostly positive, but the occasional negative review can give you the opportunity to demonstrate your firm’s commitment to excellent customer service. In such a case, a negative review (and, more importantly, how you respond to it) may end up boosting your SEO performance.
Steps to Take When You Receive a Negative Client Review
Most people’s first instinct upon learning that someone has posted a negative review is to fire off a heated response. Unfortunately, impulsive, accusatory responses tend to make the situation worse, as your firm comes across as defensive and dismissive of the reviewer’s experience. Below are a few steps you can take to transform an unideal situation into a concrete demonstration of your law firm’s composure, professionalism, and genuine concern for the well-being of all your clients.
Assess the Details of What Happened
A negative review may appear as words on a screen, but there is often much more behind the client’s decision to voice their concerns publicly. Take some time to absorb their review and reflect on what happened. For example, if the review states that the attorney was a poor communicator, explore the actions that may have led the client to this conclusion. Even if the review seems completely off base or inaccurately describes what happened, it’s important to identify points where the client may have developed these negative feelings.
Reach Out to the Client Directly
Most people who write negative reviews just want to be heard and acknowledged. In many cases, someone who left you a critical review appreciates it when the attorney contacts them directly (via email or phone usually works well). You can start by expressing your disappointment that they had an unpleasant experience working with you, then ask if there is anything you can do to improve the situation for the client (and for others). Avoid belittling them or threatening them in any way—instead, acknowledge their concerns and let them explain themselves. The simple act of reaching out to hear more about their concerns goes a long way in resolving the issue, with many clients eventually deciding to take down the review after talking through their experiences.
Reply to the Review With Poise and Professionalism
Even if you can’t control what the disgruntled client wrote about your law firm, your response can go a long way in shaping public perception. A potential client may see the negative review and then view your firm’s short, professional response below. An answer acknowledging the negative experience and reiterating your firm’s commitment to delivering exceptional service to every client can reframe the dynamic, allowing your firm to come across as empathetic, composed, and professional. Remember, the public response you craft to a negative review is both for the individual client and the hundreds of potential clients visiting the review site. They will appreciate how you handled a difficult situation with ease, poise, and professionalism.
If you’re ready to develop a digital marketing strategy for your law firm that will boost your visibility and attract more clients, give LegalRev a call today at (800) 893-2590 to get started.