Reviews are essential to your law firm marketing success ... but what about the bad review?
First, just a quick refresher on why online reviews are so important to your law firm marketing.
- Google loves Google reviews (reviews that are submitted directly on their platform)!
- Google does not share their algorithms with us, but webmasters agree that lots of great Google reviews will boost your website's performance on local search.
- People trust reviews. They are more likely to click-through to your website and more likely to hire you if you have a lot of positive Google reviews.
For these reasons, we encourage every one of our law firm marketing clients to be very intentional about getting positive reviews on Google and other platforms, like Facebook and Yelp.
But what about the bad review?
How bad is it, really ... and what should you do about it?
First -- breathe. EVERYONE gets a bad review sometime. The more successful you are, the more people you work with (or decide not to work with), the more likely someone out there is going to get their panties in a wad and rush over to Google to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction. It's a new fact of our online lives.
How bad is it, really?
Well, I'm not going to lie. It can be bad. I've spoken to several business owners who have definitely lost business due to a single bad review ... often an unfair one at that.
What can you do about it?
You can make it worse ... you can make it better ... you can learn from it ... and you can be pro-active to protect yourself from it.
But you cannot delete it. Once it's out there, only the person who left the review can edit or delete it.
- Make it worse. Ah, the knee-jerk reaction that gets you into a no-win, public argument online. The review is unfair or untrue and you -- as a trained advocate -- can PROVE it. Tread lightly here, my friend. It's oh-so-easy to look like a jerk online and this is an argument you cannot win. PLUS -- the more comments and replies and the longer this thread becomes, the more weight it gets from Google and the whole thing just blows up into a bigger mess than before. Please do not start an argument in the reviews section online. It just never turns out well.
- Make it better. There are several ways you may be able to make it better. The first would be to call the person and see if there was just a misunderstanding that can be easily resolved ... and if so, take action and then ask if they would please consider editing their review. This happened to me once when I left a terrible review for a company. The owner called me the next day and straightened everything out. I went back and revised my review based on his understanding, willingness to listen, and quick action. Anyone can make a mistake, and I was impressed that this company admitted it and made it right.
- Learn from it. A bad review may open your eyes to a weakness in your firm -- whether it's a rude receptionist or a break-down in your processes. A bad review could be a gift, showing you something about your firm that you didn't know before. Take the criticism, learn from it and do better next time. Respond to the review by thanking the reviewer for bringing this to your attention and state what actions you will take or have taken to correct the situation.
- Protect yourself from it. The best protection against a bad review is lots of great ones! Pro-actively request positive reviews from your many happy clients. Most people understand that a single bad review, among many great ones is just something that happens. Over time, the bad review will get buried and, if you didn't make it worse by getting into a huge blow-up, most people will never see it. And if they do, they will take it with a grain of salt.
There is one more thing you could do. You could consider threatening the bad reviewer with a lawsuit. Since you're a lawyer, this may be a real option for you. If the reviewer is being vindictive, if their claims are untrue and malicious and you can show harm ... then you might think about it.
We have been hurt by a few disgruntled clients who went into a private forum, where we have no access, and wrote bad things about us. A few of our clients who are members alerted us and shared screenshots. Some of what was written is patently false, and of course there is "the rest of the story," that we had no opportunity to tell. Several of our clients hopped in and told their positive stories ... but to this day, we still have the occasional person who backs out of doing business with us because of these two or three disgruntled clients.
But at the end of the day, I consider it a gift. If someone allows these few unhappy clients to sway their opinion -- despite our 25 years of success in this market, our many positive reviews, AND the unsolicited testimonials of our clients who tried to set the record straight -- then that person may be very difficult for us to work with. I choose to Ho'oponopono and move on.