Negative Client Reviews - Should You Reply to Them and Why?

Believe It Or Not – A Few Negative Reviews Adds Credibility

One of the most important contributing factors of a law firm’s local search marketing strategy is the collection of client reviews. Studies show that 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a referral from someone they know and 88 percent of consumers use reviews as a deciding factor when choosing a business.

But not every review your law firm receives is going to be positive. Sure, this is the goal. But it would be unrealistic to think that you can win every case, resolve every issue favorably, or please every client. When your law firm gets a negative review, should you respond? And if so, what is the best way to approach this feedback?

Is the Review Legitimate?

If you get a negative review, the first thing you should ask yourself – “is the review legitimate”. Most review websites don’t vet the credibility of reviews and won’t take a closer look unless the business (a.k.a. you) flags it. Some of the possible scenarios include:

  • People who mistakenly leave reviews for the wrong attorney
  • Other law firms trying to damage the competition
  • Unscrupulous marketers engaged in negative campaigns on behalf of competitors
  • Family members or friends upset on behalf of a client
  • Opposing parties who are upset about a case outcome

Most review websites have a policy that the review must be from an actual client. None of the above qualify and most are fraudulent postings that could get someone removed from a platform. If you notice these red flags, ask that the review be removed.

Should You Reply to Negative Client Reviews?

If you get a legitimate review from a client that is less than stellar, you should consider responding to the review. If you do respond you should keep in mind what the American Bar Association has shared regarding responding to negative reviews.  Responding to reviews can be risky because an attorney might be tempted to disclose information about a case to counter the negative review or defend their good name.

The ABA is clear that lawyer confidentiality prevents an attorney from correcting a client’s factual information. There is no legal risk in not responding to negative reviews. However, your online reputation could take a hit, and this is something that is increasingly vital to the success of your business.

How to Reply to a Negative Client Review

If you check your online reviews regularly (you should) and notice one of those dreaded 1-2 star ratings attached to some unpleasantries about your legal services, it is important to take a few moments to gather your thoughts before responding.

Your next steps should be:

    1. Research the Client and Case 

Before you do anything, dig into the background of the client and case. Take the time to identify:

  • The legitimacy of the review (see above)
  • The client’s name
  • The client’s case and outcome
  • Your notes about any service issues

Some people use a nickname or alias when posting reviews, so it is important not to discount a review as “fake” and risk further alienating a past client and the people who are reading your responses. Before you reply, do some extensive research.

    1. Decide on a Plan of Action

Once you have answered the above questions, you can decide on the best course of action. You may determine that the review isn’t legitimate and request its removal. If you take this route, most online review sites will temporarily remove the review while they investigate your claim.

Another possibility is to do nothing. In a few rare cases, this a valid option. For example, the negative review was posted a while ago and has had no discernable impact on your business. Or maybe there is the danger of further alienating a client that is so on edge that anything you say will only make matters worse. But, in most cases, you want to be proactive with your online presence and respond to negative feedback.

    1. Attempt to Take Things Offline

Not every solution needs to be handled on a public forum, like Google. Considering the issue of attorney confidentiality, any issues involving a client’s personal information or case details should be discussed in private.

When a negative review concerns the outcome of a case, invite the client to contact you directly to resolve the matter. This demonstrates that your firm is willing to go the extra mile to resolve client complaints.

    1. Respond to the Review Publicly

Nine times out of ten, you should respond to a negative review publicly. Consumers read negative reviews just as often as they read positive reviews when making decisions about service providers. A public response to a disgruntled client can tell a prospect that you care about your client’s issues and wellbeing.

Whether you were at fault or not, respond with the client’s name and show empathy for their situation. If they have an ongoing legal issue, encourage them to seek counsel. And, if you have spoken in private and resolved the client’s issue, you can certainly mention this in your response. Finally, it is never a bad idea to have one or two people review your response before posting to make sure that it is thorough and appropriate.

    1. Encourage Positive Reviews

While you may not be able to stop clients from leaving an occasional negative review, you can make those reviews less significant by encouraging all your clients to leave online feedback for your law firm. The more positive reviews you have, the higher your average star rating will be, and the less impact a negative one will have on your reputation. In fact, consumers expect to see a few negative reviews for most businesses and are suspicious if they do not.

Handling your law firm’s online reputation is just one part of an overall digital marketing strategy. Your clients want to feel as if their voice is being heard, and a timely and appropriate response to a less than perfect review could create loyalty among those clients as well as give you valuable information to improve your services.

Contact Sundown Marketing Group For Help Monitoring And Responding To Client Reviews

If you need further assistance with your local SEO strategy or would like to learn more about how Sundown Marketing Group’s services can help your business, contact us today at (800) 649-1764 or through our online contact form.