No one likes bad reviews, (obviously). Devoting your time and attention to those in need of your legal expertise and representation is something that you choose to do, so it can be especially frustrating to see those whom you’ve pledged your services to suddenly turn around and write ludicrous things about you and your office.
Seriously, there are some pretty harsh and even puzzling reviews out there. You can find 3-Star Google reviews with remarks like “I think I went to college with the head attorney’s brother”, but no explanation as to why the review itself only contained three stars, as well as absurdly cruel Yelp reviews asserting that certain firms are actually “slippery reptilian law offices”.
Decidedly uninformative or mean reviews such as those above can have a profoundly negative impact on your practice. Merely a few devastating reviews could cause you to lose potential clients, be passed up for local awards, and lose out to competing offices. If your firm has received a negative online comment, or even a multitude of bad reviews, you should take action to protect your reputation by employing one of the following methods:
1.) Determine If The Review Merits A Response
If the negative review you received is simply the antics of a troll and has a minimal impact on your overall rating, then it’s entirely acceptable to disregard it and move on. Most potential claimants combing through your reviews should be able to ascertain that such a review is not a legitimate critique of you and your firm. Bear in mind that especially mean or unhelpful reviews, including those that directly call out or disparage employees by name can be potential Terms of Service violation for Google, Yelp and other review sites, so be certain that you understand whether or not the review is truly illegitimate.
However, if such a review does truly concern you and you believe that it still does not deserve a direct response, simply report it. This can be done in one of two ways: contact the website’s administrator to ensure that the account associated with the review is suspended or directly “flag” it as inappropriate, so it will be investigated.
2.) Respond Immediately (On-Site)
Assuming that the review in question is indeed legitimate and warrants a response on your part, then be prepared to respond immediately, and do so with a gracious and apologetic tone. It is imperative to issue a thoughtful public response, along with a well-constructed private message detailing your proposed solution. Typically, it’s best to offer an explanation as to what happened that made the claimant write the review in the first place, whether it’s explaining that the claimant’s case wasn’t pursuable, or that the claim wasn’t as valuable as he or she may have hoped.
Once you have sent your private message, reiterate the solution in a publicly-issued comment. It’s crucial that your public response states that you have already privately messaged the reviewer. Make certain that future reviewers know that you reached out and that you offered a solution. Take care to avoid revealing any personal information such the reviewer’s full name, case details, phone numbers or street address.
An alternative to this could be sending an e-mail, the content of which should be identical in both style and tone to what is suggested for online communication.
3.) Respond Immediately (Offline/Off-Site)
If you recognize the reviewer as someone who has contacted your office or as a previous client, reach out to him or her directly if you still have their contact information on file. It is wise to avoid calling a claimant at his or her place of employment or calling him or her at home, as this is seen as a traditionally intrusive act. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get in touch with the reviewer, as your attempts at reconciliation could be misconstrued as efforts to harass or intimate negative reviewers.
This is the least preferable method of communicating with a reviewer, as you are often at the mercy of their time schedule and have no means of knowing how he or she will respond. Remember, this should only be done if you believe that a case is either still pursuable or if genuinely feel the need to issue a formal apology over the phone.
4.) Address Any Problems Internally
Lastly, assuming that the reviews did contain some substance, then it is best to notify your team of the review and works towards a collective solution. If that means improving upon how you or your staff answer phone calls, schedule meetings or explain the legal system to clients, then so be it. Valid online reviews many give your firm valuable insight as to how you can improve your practice’s day-to-day activities.
It’s important to remember that you are not the only law firm or advocacy group in the world to have ever received an unfair or even unnecessarily harsh review. Just remain calm and work to craft both a public and private response to the review. If applicable, be sure to notify the claimant of any changes to the daily operations of your practices that have come as a result of the review. By taking these simple steps you’ll ensure that potential claimants don’t pass over your firm by due to a negative review.