A Bad Review for Your Law Firm? Here’s the Best Way to Respond

So you got a bad review online. I know the feeling. Your stomach drops, your face gets hot and your emotions swing from fear (What will potential clients think when they read this?!) to anger (I did my BEST for this client, how could they?!).

These feelings are very natural, but what I want you to do is let yourself cool down before you fire off a response. You see, when you respond in the right way, you can turn a bad review into a positive for your law firm.

There Is a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Respond to a Bad Review

Below you will find three techniques for responding to a poor online review. The first should only used in certain situations, the second should never be used, and the third is your best bet for transforming a devastating review into a killer brand-building opportunity.

Occasionally the Right Choice

The silent treatment. Ignoring a bad review is tempting, but most of the time it’s a bad idea. Think of online reviews as a tennis match: if someone lobs a ball on your side of the net and you don’t even attempt to return it, you’re going to lose the point, no question about it! The only time it’s best to ignore a review is if you’ve already responded politely and the person continues to berate you; better to walk away then get into a virtual shouting match.

Guaranteed to Be a Bad Idea

The shouting match. Worse than the silent treatment is getting into a shouting match with the disgruntled reviewer. As an attorney, you know that client confidentiality trumps all, and when you respond rashly to a bad review you could very well violate this and get yourself into hot water.

Keep Calm and Carry On

The measured response. Common sense will dictate that this is the best way to deal with a negative review for your law firm, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do! I know all too well how terrible it feels to get a bad review, but you have to rise above the melee. This means thanking the person for their candid comments. A word of caution: it can be easy to appear sarcastic or condescending when replying to a harsh review. To ensure that you response sounds as sincere as possible—and to double check it for spelling or grammar errors—have someone in your office read it over before you hit “post.” The last thing you want to do is substantiate the former client’s claims by coming off as arrogant and ignorant as they say you are.

Examples, Please!

I want to give you an example of the kind of review you may one day receive and the best way to respond to not only the original review, but to further comments from the former client. Now, keep in mind that you may never get a negative review, especially one with this level of vitriol... but then again, you might, and I want you to know exactly what to do if this happens.

Disgruntled former client: I’m writing today because I don’t think that ANYONE EVER should hire this “attorney.” He totally screwed up what should have been a simple case, leaving me without my kids, without any money and without a hope! I should have known from the beginning as he rarely returned my calls without repeated reminders from me and it seemed like he didn’t even remember who I was half the time! If I were you, I would keep looking for another lawyer, unless you want to be TOTALLY SCREWED and BROKE from his high fees and TERRIBLE LEGAL ADVICE! RUN AWAY FROM THIS LAWYER AND NEVER LOOK BACK!!!!

Response: Dear Sir or Ma’am: I understand your frustration; nobody wants a negative outcome from their case. What I want more than anything is to address your issues personally. Please call the office at 888-888-8888 as soon as possible so that we can discuss your grievances and come to a resolution. I will do everything I can to make this right.

This response is short and to the point, it is sincere and it urges communication from the angered client. What happens after you respond politely is kind of a crap shoot, but here are several possible scenarios:

  • Scenario #1: The client calls back, the two meet and come to an agreement about how to proceed. The formerly angry reviewer would then go back to the site and respond to your comment with a more positive attitude and all would be right in the world. While this sounds far-fetched, it can happen! There have been many instances where a business owner like you was able to not only appease the upset reviewer but turn him into a brand ambassador.
  • Scenario #2: The client doesn’t call you, but also doesn’t comment further. I consider this another win, because anyone who reads the review and your comment will see that the reviewer was out of line and that you were level-headed and polite. This shows potential clients that you keep your calm under pressure and show concern when one of your clients is unhappy.
  • Scenario #3: The client is still angry and lets you know by flaming you yet again. At this point the only thing you can do is ask again that they call you to resolve the matter, again, keeping the response short and professional. After this, it is best to go ahead with the silent treatment and ignore any further responses, stating simply, “I won’t be responding to any further comments on this thread. My offer to speak with you personally stands and I sincerely hope to hear from you soon.” Keep in mind that if this person is serious enough about their complaints they may take to other review sites, even social media, to “get even” with you. As an attorney, you know that if they take their vengeful campaign far enough there can be legal repercussions for the former client: slander and libel come to mind.

I don’t mean to scare you, and most people, even unsatisfied clients, wouldn’t dream of taking their revenge to this level, I just want to prepare you for every possible scenario.

If you need help implementing a review gathering strategy, or formulating a custom review response plan, please call 888-886-0939. And to ensure you keep up with the latest news in small business marketing, be sure to follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook page.

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