How Should Lawyers Respond To Negative Online Reviews

You’ve most likely heard that your law firm needs online reviews. The statistics are well founded. Over 90 percent of customers consult online reviews before making a purchasing decision; legal services not excepted. Your prospective clients are using review sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp and Avvo to determine the best law firm for to handle their case, making positive customers reviews your most authentic and valuable source of advertising. 

So you set up a profile for your law firm on those sites and request client feedback to bolster your online presence. One by one, the reviews come in. Most are positive, but to your surprise, someone leaves you a bad review. It could be as simple as one star. Or one word: horrible. Or it could be an in depth account of your interactions, detailing the pain points they experience when dealing with your firm. It is normal to feel devastated. After all, lawyers (should) aspire to provide the best service possible to their clients. When one leaves unhappy, it can feel like a heavy blow.

But negative online reviews can be even more valuable than positive reviews. Former clients that leave reviews, even bad reviews, show that they care about your business. They provide constructive criticism that can help guide your business decisions moving forward. Plus, negative reviews give you a chance to respond in a proactive way that shows the former client (and prospective clients) that you care about their experience. 

A negative online review left unattended, however, can be a black spot on your digital presence. There are a number of strategies that will a negative review doesn’t damage your law firm’s reputation. 


1 | Acknowledge

When a former client leaves a bad review for their law firm, there are two wrong responses. The first is to ignore the bad review. The second is issuing a denial or defense for your law firm. Both show a lack of respect for the client and could further tear at your firm’s reputation.

Instead, you should take the negative feedback as a form of constructive criticism. Clients who spend the time and effort to review your services care about your business. Publicly acknowledging the issue and thanking them for their feedback reciprocates this effort in a positive way. 

When responding, dig deep into the review to determine what the real issue is. If the review is vague, such as “Don’t go here!” or “Worst Ever!!!,” ask the reviewer to explain their issue in detail. Sometimes, it is easier to leave a number for them to contact your office. If you have contact information for the client, you can also give them a call or send an email to see if you are able to help with the issue. Clearing up any misunderstandings or confusion is the first step to a resolution. 

Don’t be afraid to enter into a dialogue with the reviewer online. A public exchange shows that you are acting on the feedback and doing everything you can to address the reviewer’s concerns.


2 | Address The Issue

After acknowledging the negative review, the next step is to address the issue. Take immediate steps to resolve the problem. Sometimes just listening to a client’s complaint is enough. A gracious response, especially a public one, can turn a customer scorned into your most loyal advocate. But sometimes more is required. What that is will depend on the situation and the client’s concern.

Doing everything possible, short of violating rules of professional conduct, to fix the situation will pay dividends in the end. Once the problem is resolved, the client may be willing to delete their original review and post a new, improved review. At the very least, your prospective clients will see your response and will be more forgiving of one bad review when considering more positive reviews.


3 | Improve Your Service

Constructive feedback is only valuable if it helps you improve your firm. If an online review is positive, for example, use the feedback to replicate the positive performance. If an online review is negative, make improvements to your service and make sure the problem never happens again. Businesses often pay consultants and third parties to figure out what their customers want. An online review is free and provides equally valuable insight into the needs and wants of your clients.

Improved services can also be used to address your client’s problem. If the client is unresponsive, unwilling to engage in further dialogue or change their reviews, you can respond to the negative review with details of the improvements you made.

Positive reviews are great, but negative reviews can be just as valuable. By responding to negative reviews, you show prospective clients that you respect your customers’ feedback and that you are willing to improve your services to meet their needs.


Related articles: 

A Quick Intro To Online Reviews For Lawyers

Why Lawyers Need To Claim Their Avvo Profiles

Choosing The Right Legal Tech For Your Firm