Personal Injury Law Marketing

How to Respond to a Negative Review

As a law firm, your business depends in part on referrals. With online review sites like Yelp, a good word from a happy client can go a… Read More >

As a law firm, your business depends in part on referrals. With online review sites like Yelp, a good word from a happy client can go a long way.

Many consumers depend on other people’s feedback to choose anything from restaurants to attorneys. The simple truth is, a bad review is bad for business.

It’s impossible to please everyone, so prepare yourself for the reality of a few negative reviews. Nestled among positive posts, most prospective clients are able to see the big picture. Responding properly to a negative review can transform the effect it has on the reader.

Taking negative reviews in stride can be one of the greatest marketing challenges for law firms. Instead of threatening to sue the author and the website, here are our tips for effectively reacting to a bad review.

Why Respond to Negative Reviews?

More and more prospective clients refer to Yelp to check out a law firm before making the decision to call. Keeping your company profile current is important for business. Negative reviews are more powerful when you have not responded to them. It can seem like you don’t care.

Responding to a negative review reassures both past and future clients that you take their feedback seriously. When done right, your reply will create context and defuse the power of the review.

Rule #1: Stay Calm

Negative feedback is hard to hear. Sometimes it’s deserved, or an exaggeration, or a complete fabrication. Whatever the case may be, resist the urge to attack the reviewer. Every law firm has its share of difficult clients. It’s not uncommon for some people to use reviews as a bargaining chip.

None of this matters. Heard of the Streisand effect? It’s a real phenomenon, and nothing is more damaging to your business than threatening to sue a reviewer in a public forum. Take a deep breath, and craft a strategic response.

Rule #2: Determine the Facts

Not all reviewers complain in vain. Many have legitimate reasons for leaving a negative review. Maybe this is an opportunity to identify weaknesses. 

The worst thing you can do is be defensive about an issue that is clearly your fault. Talk to the employees involved and find out what happened. You may also speak to the reviewer to get their side of the story. In some cases, this can be enough to compel them to remove their review. 

Either way, having a clear understanding of the situation from both sides will allow you to write a more complete and thoughtful response.

Rule #3: Apologize

Generally, you should apologize to anyone who leaves a negative review. But there is a substantial difference between “I’m sorry that happened” and “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Determine how you will approach the apology only after you have analyzed the situation. Apologizing for something that isn’t your fault comes off as insincere. It could also give readers the impression you are uninformed. If it is your fault, explain what happened and apologize accordingly. As a rule, apologize and take responsibility if it is your fault, apologize for the client’s feelings if it is not.

Rule #4: Offer a Solution

Regardless of type of complaint, give a solution to the problem. This is your opportunity to say good things about your firm. A general statement like “Keeping clients informed is important to us” can put a prospective client at ease.  As an attorney, you’re unable to go into the specifics of a client’s case. Even when responding to a negative review, it’s your responsibility to protect your client.

Make clear your willingness to speak directly about the reviewer’s concerns. If you have spoken to them already, mention in your response how happy you were to touch base with them. This will make you seem approachable and eager to solve problems proactively.

Rule #5: Respond Within 48 Hours

The longer a review sits without a response, the more prospective clients take it at face value. When you claim your profiles, most sites will send you text or email alerts when feedback is added. Make it a general rule to monitor your Yelp or other review pages and respond to complaints within 48 hours. 

Even the best law firm will not be immune to negative reviews. Start thinking now about how you will handle them. Responding thoughtfully and strategically can turn a negative review into a positive.

CASEpeer is secure case management software designed for personal injury attorneys. From intake to settlement, our robust features help law firms become more proactive and powerful. Our goal is to help attorneys grow their businesses. For more marketing and practice management tips, visit our blog.

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