You know, it’s bound to happen sooner or later. Whether that client was having a bad day, or the stars weren’t aligned, or you actually dropped the ball, there’s going to come a day (hopefully far off in the future) when someone posts a bad review about your law firm.
It stings, and it sure is no fun! But what you do next, in this very moment, will determine whether this is a blip on the screen or a debilitating obstacle because you can take control of this experience and make it your own! Remember that old adage about life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond? Yep, the same is true here.
You can stay up at night and wring your hands, or you can dazzle your readers and potential clients with a positive encounter.
No one likes being placed in the doghouse, especially if the review was unfair or, worse yet, showed up on your site by mistake and written by a person you’ve never met. Ah well, none of that matters right now. What matters is how you respond.
Thank the Person for Sharing
There’s nothing that disarms a situation like politeness and compassion. Start by responding promptly and professionally with a written reply that thanks the person for sharing their feedback. Next, if they have provided their name, be sure to address them directly in your response by using their name. For example,
“Thank you, Edward, for taking the time to share your perspective …”
As for the comment itself, a few things can be true: the person actually was your client and they believe your performance fell short, it’s a competitor posting a fake review, or it was mistakenly posted by some unknown person who was disgruntled with some other attorney or HVAC installer or seamstress and the comment inadvertently wound up on your site.
Validate the Relationship
If you recognize the name of the client or former client, then validate the relationship and state that you regret they are dissatisfied. For example,
“We felt honored, Edward, to work on your bankruptcy case, and we regret any disappointment you may feel. Client satisfaction is very important to us. Our firm is committed to providing clients the best possible service.”
Invite Dialogue Offline
Then invite the person into an offline dialogue so that you can hear their concerns in greater detail and determine whether you can remedy them. A phone call or in-person conversation is often best for this, though you can use email or any other medium that the person chooses.
“I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you by phone and discuss further any concerns you may have. If there’s a way to make it right, we will. Please give us a call at our office or email your phone number to us and we’ll call you. We’d love to talk.”
What If the Review Was a Mistake?
If you look through your files and realize that the person who wrote the review is someone you’ve never heard of, and therefore not a former client, then respond by suggesting there may be some confusion. For example,
“I appreciate your concern, Edward. After a quick review of our files, I see that we don’t have record of serving you as a client. It seems there’s been some confusion, but we’d be happy to speak to you if you’d like to give us a call.”
Don’t Get Defensive or Try to Explain
The last thing you want to do is start a mud-slinging match in public or go into some long, winding narrative about why you think the review is unfair. And by all means, don’t try to explain away the client’s bad experience by recounting something that was going on with your team at the time such as files got destroyed because the office was flooded or you were short-staffed because someone was on maternity leave. There is no positive outcome at the end of that conversation, and you don’t want casual readers to settle in with popcorn and a beverage to see where this spicy online dialogue is going to wind up. Instead, move immediately into a solution. Lay the issue to rest promptly and professionally.
If you feel determined to try to get a negative or inaccurate law firm review deleted, here are the steps to take for several platforms. Keep in mind, though, that it’s very rare that these sites will remove negative reviews. It has to be a flagrant violation of site policies to do so.
- Facebook – How to report a faulty review/recommendation
- Avvo – How to dispute a review
- Yelp – Reporting a misleading or fake review
- Google – Policies for removing negative reviews: Flag inappropriate reviews, Prohibited and restricted content
Dilute a Negative Review by Getting Lots of Positive Reviews
So, what next? The key is to proactively prepare for a negative comment before it happens!
As they say in sports, anticipate your opponent. What that means here is the more positive reviews and testimonials people write about you, the less a single negative comment matters. Not only is that true in the minds of readers, but it’s also true in numeric review scores. One negative comment matters on social media when there are only four reviews of your firm – it pulls your overall favorable score down. But one negative review barely moves the needle when there are 50 reviews. That’s because the reviews are DILUTED! One bad review out of four represents 25%. One bad review out of 50 represents 2%. See the difference?
Have a process in place in which you frequently and consistently ask satisfied clients to post reviews. A final in-person meeting or when you hand them a settlement check is often a good time to ask for a review. Reassure the client that it only has to be a few sentences and will take less than five minutes. You can even automate the review process by providing a link on your website.
The Lesson: Respond with Aplomb and Then Move On
If you’re in business long enough, you’re likely going to get a negative review sometime. It’s just the world we live in. Whether it was your fault or not, an unhappy client wants to be listened to and validated. And if there’s a quick solution that will meet their needs, all the better! Try not to get too crippled by a bad review, even though it smarts. The best move is to rebound quickly, stay positive and professional, and let the experience serve as motivation to get out there and ask your happy clients to post reviews!