The good thing about the Internet: You have instant access to a wealth of information at your fingertips. The bad thing about the Internet: People can say whatever they want, even if it’s untrue or unfair.
Fact: If you stay in business long enough, sooner or later someone is going to post a bad review of your law firm. It’s going to show up on Google or Yelp or some other consumer review site. It’s going to be public. And it’s going to sting. The question is: How will you respond?
The answer to that question is crucial because your online reputation isn’t built just on what people say, but on what you do in response. Let’s go over some practical do’s and don’ts to address a negative review with professionalism and grace.
DON’T: Defend yourself or fight back.
If someone believes they had a bad experience with you enough to write about it, arguing back won’t convince them otherwise—it will only make you look worse to readers. People only tend to remember the last punch thrown, whether literally or metaphorically; so don’t be that guy online. Besides, sometimes people who leave bad reviews are simply trolls trying to egg you on into a feud. If you take the bait, you give them exactly what they want.
DON’T: Do nothing.
Just as a defensive response can backfire, choosing to ignore a complaint can be just as bad or worse. Ignoring a bad review sends a passive message that you don’t really care enough to address someone’s complaints. If someone is reviewing your law firm to decide whether to become a client, and that person sees negative reviews met with your silence, they’re far less likely to give you a call.
DO: Apologize and be gracious (even if you don’t think you did anything wrong).
“A gentle answer turns away wrath.” (Prov. 15:1) Even if you believe the accusation is unfair or inaccurate, the reviewer owns their feelings, and there’s a way to acknowledge their right to have those feelings without getting defensive. Example: “I’m truly sorry you had a bad experience with us. We try to serve our client’s needs, but we don’t always get it right.” You might not win that person back into your corner, but just by responding graciously, you will diffuse the influence that bad review might have on prospective new clients.
DO: Offer to make it right, if possible.
Assuming the reviewer has a legitimate issue, offering to make amends will go a long way toward healing the breach as well as impressing future clients that you’re willing to do the right thing. One good practice is to try and take the discussion offline: “We’d like the opportunity to make this right. Would you mind giving us a call at xxx-xxx-xxxx to discuss options?”
If you’re in business for as long as you hope to be, you’ll quickly realize you can’t make every client happy, nor will you be able to resolve every negative online review. But your willingness to respond graciously will help turn those negatives into potential positives for future clients because they basically give you the last word. And you might even win a few clients back in the process.