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Online Reviews For Lawyers

When people look to hire a service provider, more than ever before they are turning to the Internet and reading customer reviews and ratings. So many sites are devoted to the ranking and review of various companies that it is hard to tell which reviews are accurate or worthwhile to read. There are even services you can hire to create fake reviews for your business – but Google doesn’t like that and Amazon is even suing fake reviewers at the moment.

Everywhere we go online (and off) we see reviews, whether blog comments, Amazon ratings, Zagat, or Yelp reviews. E-commerce sites have prolific reviews – 30% of searchers check out Amazon ratings before buying a product. In the service realm, Search Engine Journal reports that 4 out of 5 Yelp users visit the site before they spend money to check out reviews, confirm details, and otherwise do their research. In 2013, Brightlocal found that 79% of respondents trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to online reviews of your firm:

Everyone’s Doing It

Before the ubiquitous Internet, personal recommendations were the hallmark of credibility. A referral from a friend meant more than any advertisement. Nowadays, we all Google before we buy, visit, or hire anyone or anything. A new restaurant in town? Let’s see who said what about the food. Need a repairperson for your home? The first step is to read reviews about the quality of services provided. And get this: a whopping 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

A positive reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a law firm has to convince new customers to contact it. It provides digital ‘proof’ about the quality of the business and allows consumers to make decisions with greater confidence than ever before. In fact, 72% of consumers say a positive review makes them trust a local business more while 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.

Where Should Reviews Go?

So where does this leave your law firm? Unfortunately, just being good at your job isn’t enough anymore if the digital stratosphere doesn’t know about it. Asking happy clients to leave reviews is absolutely paramount – you can’t compete if you don’t even show up. The good news is that the odds of obtaining digital reviews are heavily in your favor: seven out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to. Which leads us to the question: where should you ask clients to leave a review?

Reviews on Google or other external websites are digital marketing priority number one. Google’s local search algorithm incorporates data from a number of third-party directories and review sites, such as Yelp, Facebook, and AVVO. The more reviews you have on these sites, and the more positive they are, the higher chance you’ll have at ranking in Google’s “local” 3-pack.

The important thing to remember with online reviews: clients MUST login directly to the third-party websites with their own credentials for legitimacy. Try following a few of these steps to jump-start the review process:

  1. Encourage your clients to leave reviews directly after receiving good news about a case verdict or settlement.
  2. Train all staff members interacting with clients on the importance of review websites and how clients should go about leaving them.
  3. Set up a dedicated computer or tablet in the office where clients can immediately post reviews in real time.
  4. Send follow-up emails asking clients to rate the firm, including links for easy click-through.

Debbie Downers are Real

The first thing to remember about negative reviews: unhappy people are louder than happy ones. In fact, Americans tell an average of nine people about good experiences while they tell 16 people about poor experiences – nearly two times more often. Social media is even more of a vacuum: over one million people view tweets about customer service every week and roughly 80% of those tweets are negative or critical in nature.

This is due in part to a phenomenon known as “negativity bias.” In essence, negative comments have a greater impact than positive ones. A number of studies suggest negativity is essentially an attention magnet, and with consumers willing to share a bad experience 63% more often than a good one, that negativity can now go viral.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Don’t get sucked into the downward spiral. Think of a negative review as feedback for making your law firm more successful. “When customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better,” shared Kristin Smaby, author of Being Human is Good Business.

And before you ask: no, you can’t just ‘delete’ negative reviews. Even if the person was never a client. Even if you’ve never heard of the person. Unfortunately, the Internet is still a little bit of the Wild West, so the best course of action is to have a strategy for dealing with these negative reviews.

First and foremost, ALWAYS respond in a positive manner. “Even if you do get negative feedback, you can turn it into a positive by engaging in a constructive way and showing that you’re a genuine business,” said Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing.

Steps to take when responding to a negative online review of your law firm:

  1. Thank the reviewer for his or her time and input, and express how important feedback is to the law firm.
  2. Address the reviewer’s concerns directly. If necessary, apologize or take responsibility for the issue and then provide an opportunity for direct communication. This may sound something like this: “We’re sorry the law firm wasn’t able to take your case. Please feel free to reach us directly at 555-555-5555 to further discuss the details.”
  3. While most of the time a reply will do little to change the reviewer’s mind, it goes a long way towards impressing potential clients reading your law firm’s reviews. Showcasing your professional tone through a polite and direct response to a negative review can be worth almost as much as a positive external review.

HOW TO GET GOOD REVIEWS

You might have noticed that people love to leave reviews when they are really unhappy. Negative and one-star reviews can decrease conversions and throw shade on your digital brand. In order to set up a system to combat the haters on an ongoing basis, you need to proactively ask for positive feedback. For lawyers, this digital feedback should come at case resolution.

In my former life as a personal injury lawyer, the clients were generally the happiest on the day they received their money; therefore, that timing provides a great opportunity to capitalize upon their happiness. I know that many lawyers will find it challenging to hit clients up for a favor, but it must be done. You are not taking advantage of them or asking them to do anything wrong – you are simply offering them an opportunity to provide feedback on their experience working with your business.

Approach Matters. Handle digital review acquisition and reputation management in the same professional spirit as you would your legal work. You can send an automated email as part of your case closing process that provides links to the ratings and review sites you are seeking to bolster. Be sure to tell your clients how much you appreciate their help and that their input will help other people in the same position make a more informed decision when hiring an attorney. Be sure to warn the client about disclosing potentially confidential information in their reviews as this may violate the terms of a settlement or protective order. As with any effective business procedure, a consistent approach and process will ensure that you get the most and best reviews possible.

Timing Matters. If you ask a client to review your practices too early during their work with you, you won’t get the full feedback you need to have an accurate review. Comprehensive and personalized reviews will not only help to improve your internal processes, but will also give potential clients and referral sources honest and genuine feedback on what it’s like to work with you. If you ask a former client too late (such as a month after their case resolves), they are less likely to be positive, as the initial glow of success has likely worn off (and their recoveries may be long since spent).

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