5 tips for managing negative reviews

As a frequent speaker to groups of attorneys, I am undoubtedly asked by a participant in the audience how to respond to negative reviews online.  Here I’ll share with you my five tips for managing negative reviews:

1. Listen

Every attorney needs to know what is being said about them online.  It isn’t good enough to just have a presence on social media – such as Facebook and LinkedIn — but you need to regularly follow the conversation. Only by knowing what is being said about you can you respond in a timely, thoughtful way.  There are all sorts of great tools for listening, including Google Alerts, TweetDeck and Hootsuite.

2. Encourage feedback

Send your clients an email with a direct link to where they can provide feedback about their experience with you and the quality of service they received.  Conversely, never make your client sign a document saying they won’t criticize you online before you will do business with them. If you are consistently providing a high quality experience you’ll see that reflected in positive reviews.  And if you receive negative reviews, you’ll know where you need to focus on improving.

3. Don’t overreact

While it can be hard for attorneys to be objective when dealing with a hurtful review, it’s important to calm down and ask if there might be some merit to the review.  You have to ask, in this situation, is it possible that I could have provided the client with better customer service?

4. Participate

Thank your clients for their positive reviews, and respond constructively to negative feedback.  If a review is truly damaging, post a short response saying something like, “I’m sorry you have had a bad experience with me; please contact me personally at the following email address and I will do everything I can to make this right.” This shows that you really care about your client, your reputation and customer service.  Clients want to know that you are listening to them, and will value the fact that you took the time to respond.

5. Allow a couple negatives to accent the positives

Negative reviews can give credence to your positive reviews.  In focus groups, consumers do not trust webpages where every review is positive.  They assume the uniformly positive reviews are fake because no one is perfect and there are people out there who will never be satisfied.  If you have a number of positive reviews on Avvo, Yelp or anywhere else, don’t worry about the negative review.  If you only have negative reviews, solicit happy clients to write thoughtful reviews about you in order to properly balance the conversation.