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Online reviews are critical to the sucess of your law firm - Whitehardt

Online reviews are an increasingly important decision-making tool for your potential clients. As of 2015, 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews, and that percentage grows every year. People look at online reviews for reassurance that they have chosen the right product or service.  Now more than ever it is necessary for businesses to have a consistent flow of online feedback.  Law firms are no exception.

But how does one get reviews in the first place? Many firms agonize over this issue, but the solution is no magic – You ASK for them. When you take a moment to ask for feedback, you are illustrating to the client that their opinion matters to you.  Here are some things you should keep in mind when asking for a review:

Keep Your Requests Personal

Do not  send a mass email requesting  reviews from previous clients. You will be ignored. Take the time to reach out to people individually. If the client feels like their attorney took the time to write them and thank them for their business personally, they will be more apt to in turn take some their time to write a nice review.  Have either the attorney who worked their case, or their main point of contact at the firm send the request.

Use whatever means of communication is best for that particular client.  If your staff has contacted the client mostly via email, a nicely worded message thanking them for their business and asking for a review would work well. If most of your correspondence has been over the phone, give them a call. Use your best judgment.

Make Review Requests Part Of The Disbursement Process

Review requests become much easier when you integrate them into your daily dealings. Clients are generally happiest when they’ve gotten their check. This is the point where all the work you’ve done for them has come to fruition, and they’re pleased with the result. Take advantage of their good mood and ask them to share their feelings with others.  Emphasize how much you appreciate their business and send them out to sing your praises.

Don’t Stop Asking Once You Have A Certain Amount

Some attorneys ask, “How many reviews should I have?”.  The truth is, there is no magic number. What’s  important is that potential clients see recent reviews.  A good review from 2 years ago is not going to have as much weight as several good reviews from the last few months. Potential clients want to know that you’re out there providing good service on a consistent basis.

Start With Google Reviews

A client’s first encounter with your business will likely come from a Google search.  Ask yourself when you run a google search for a product or service, what do you look at?

Do you go with a company that has no reviews or rating? Or do  you go with the one with many reviews and good overall rating?  Probably the latter. Your potential clients are no different.

Bear in mind that Google requires at least 5 reviews before you get a star rating. Once you’ve established your business on Google with a solid flow of reviews , consider directing some people to legal sites like Avvo or for more variety.

You Cannot Ask For Yelp Reviews

Unlike other platforms, it is against Yelp’s policy for businesses to ask people for reviews. It likely would not do much good anyway, because Yelp only displays “recommended” reviews made by consistent users. What you can do is let people know you’re on Yelp by telling them or putting their sticker in your office  window.  If your client is a ‘yelper’ they will find you.

Be Patient

This process will take time – especially with Yelp. It can take a while to get the ball rolling, but it is well worth the effort. Trust is a major factor for people seeking legal help. Attorneys overall tend to get a bad rap, and people are very cautious when selecting one. They want to make sure they don’t hire someone who will take advantage of them. Hearing about another person’s experience with the firm puts them at ease and therefore much more likely to pick up the phone and call you.

Handling Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are frustrating but unavoidable. You can’t please everyone every time, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and  let bad reviews color people’s perception of your business.  By taking the time to write a thoughtful response to complaints you can sway public opinion in your favor.  When writing your responses, keep these things in mind:

  • Be gracious. Whatever the issue was (even if the reviewer is mischaracterizing it) take ownership of it.  Resist the urge to give “your side of the story”, it will come off as defensive.  Here’s an example:

Note that he starts by acknowledging the problem and offering an apology.  Always respect the person’s feelings about their experience and take responsibility for it.

  • If possible, offer to fix the problem. When you make an effort to address complaints this way, it shows potential clients that you are doing your best to work with people to get their needs met.
  • Reassure potential clients. When it makes sense, point out your commitment to helping your clients and the things you do to achieve that end. Here’s an example:
  • Ask them to contact you. If the situation warrants it,  offer to speak to them directly about their problem. In doing this, you put the ball in their court and also let potential clients know that you are serious about resolving customer service issues.

Responding to negative reviews can be a challenge, but if you’re diplomatic you can turn what would otherwise be bad press into good press. Remember that tact and class will always win over angry venting  in the court of public opinion.

The New “Word of Mouth”

Good reviews are the best free publicity you can get. They establish confidence in your brand and bring people who would otherwise be on the fence over to your side. Do not let a few bad reviews (or a total lack of reviews) stand between you and your potential clients. By making online reviews part of your daily routine, you can take control of how you are perceived on the web. Remember, if you don’t – someone else will.

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