When you’re researching new accommodation, a restaurant, salon, plumber or any service provider – where do most of us go?
Online reviews have become an essential aspect of decision-making for clients seeking legal services. Google reviews, in particular, have emerged as a powerful tool that can significantly influence potential clients’ perceptions of your law firm.
What do we look at first to gauge the quality of the service or product?
The reviews – of course! Google reviews are more than just star ratings – they represent the real-life experiences of clients who have engaged with your law firm. In a landscape where word of mouth has transitioned to online platforms, these reviews offer prospective client’s valuable insights into the quality of your services, your professionalism, and your client satisfaction levels.
It’s also likely you want to see the good and the bad to get a real sense of the business and also to manage your expectations.
While positive reviews can elevate your firm’s reputation, negative reviews are an inevitable part of any business’s online presence. Some practice areas are more prone to negative reviews – such as criminal and family law – a decision should be made whether to enable Google reviews, or at least to closely monitor all reviews.
It is likely you will have more respect for a business who has responded well to a one or two-star review.
Yet it may not feel great to see one or two-star review about our own business or firm. Unfortunately, negative Google reviews are very normal in day-to-day business. While it may not seem so at first, they are also an opportunity for businesses to engage with customers and build loyalty.
Google says in their small business forum, it’s important to respond to your reviews.
“As a business, you probably read your online reviews to keep up with how customers are perceiving your business. You’ll also want to respond to some of them, both positive and negative.”1
It’s crucial to approach negative feedback with professionalism and care. As your responses are public, how you respond and when is very important.
Here’s how to navigate the challenges posed by negative reviews:
- Respond promptly: Address negative reviews in a timely manner. This shows that you value client feedback and are proactive in resolving issues.
- Stay professional: Responding to negative reviews requires a calm and composed tone. Avoid getting defensive or confrontational, even if the review is unfounded.
- Acknowledge and apologize: Acknowledge the client’s experience and apologize for any inconvenience caused, regardless of the circumstances. A sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing tension.
- Offer solutions privately: If the issue is specific to the client’s case, offer to discuss the matter offline or through private communication channels. This demonstrates your commitment to resolving the issue professionally.
- Learn and improve: Treat negative reviews as opportunities for growth. Analyse feedback and consider making improvements to prevent similar issues in the future.
- Encourage further communication: After addressing the issue, invite the reviewer to connect privately to ensure their concerns are fully resolved. This shows your dedication to client satisfaction.
Obviously, we all want five-star reviews but is there benefit to keeping the three or less star reviews?
So, what is the best practice when responding to negative reviews?
Responding in a timely manner as well as using a professional tone of voice is imperative.
We would always recommend ensuring the customer feels as though you have understood their feedback and genuinely acknowledge their criticism.
If you feel the feedback would be better addressed offline, then invite them to contact you via email or phone.
Here is an example of a response you could use to a negative google review:
- Hi (INSERT NAME), thank you for your feedback. We’re sorry to hear you experienced this. If you would like to discuss this further, please give our firm a call on 1300 123 456. Thanks, (INSERT NAME AND POSITION)
If you come across an illegitimate review, we would recommend you still respond and explain you cannot find a record of them being a client with your practice however you would welcome the opportunity to discuss their issues (if relevant).
- “Thank you for taking the time to leave this review, however we have no record of a client matching your username. If you are a genuine client, please contact <<avenue>> and we will be very pleased to address your concerns.”2
You can then flag the review with Google for them to investigate and potentially even remove it from your Google business page.
Overall, the way you respond can reflect positively on your business, and a thoughtful post-review interaction can sometimes even encourage the client to update their review or remove it altogether.
Google reviews have become a powerful tool in the hands of prospective clients searching for legal representation. Positive reviews can establish your firm’s credibility and attract new clients, while negative reviews provide chances for improvement and display your professionalism in addressing challenges. By responding thoughtfully and managing your online reputation effectively, you can harness the potential of Google reviews to enhance your firm’s image and ultimately drive success in the digital era.
Some of the ethical considerations for practitioners in dealing with such reviews are discussed in this note and may also be of assistance in responding to clients.
If you have questions about your businesses marketing or business practices, the Practice Advisory Service (PAS) is a confidential complimentary service to members offered by the QLS Ethics and Practice Centre. Our solicitors have years of experience running their own practices and are able to provide guidance in essential areas of practice management and business management. Submit an expression of interest for a consultation with a Practice Advisory Service solicitor today.