How to Handle A Bad Online Review


Just like death and taxes, a bad review is something that every single person will likely grapple with at some point in their careers. The internet has turned everyday people into citizen journalists – allowing anyone with an internet connection to wax poetic about anything they want at any time. The internet is the greatest customer service tool we have at our disposal currently, and for lawyers, it’s a place where your clients are looking for information on you and your practice, and it may possibly even be a source of referrals.

Anecdotally, we know that very happy clients are the ones who leave reviews – the clients who are so ecstatic about the service they received they want to share their experience with others. But we also know that those clients who are highly dissatisfied with the service they receive are equally if not more likely to leave an online review to share their experience.  Inevitably, no matter how good of a lawyer you may be, you are bound to run across a client who is displeased with you or your firm.

From a public relations and marketing perspective, bad reviews, particularly on Google, Facebook and Yelp, can be highly detrimental to your business development efforts. In the words of Taylor Swift, “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” but for your business, where they express their hatred matters. Big social media sites, like Yelp, have big search engine optimization budgets, which means a review may come up higher in a google search than your own website, immediately deterring potential clients from learning more about your firm.  If you are on the receiving end of a bad review, there are a few methods of recourse that you may want to consider.

First and foremost, determine if the review violates Yelp’s terms of service. If so, you can ask for it to be reviewed and it may potentially be removed.  If it is not in violation of the platform’s terms, respond publicly and diplomatically, taking the proverbial “high road.” Since the review is public, your response should be public as well (though the option to respond privately is also provided.) In an article in Entrepreneur magazine, Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s manager of local business outreach, suggests that a diplomatic public response is a way to “…shed more light on a situation, or demonstrate that some action has been taken to address the reviewer’s feedback.”  While it may seem natural to go after the reviewer directly, it is important to remember that others will likely be reading your response immediately after reading the review, so you’ll want to make sure your response properly positions you and your firm as professionally as possible.  A Search Engine Journal article suggests that in your response, you should “ be passionate about your business, but don’t get personal.”

Tactically, a good defense may be a strong offense, according to an article in the Huffington Post.  The article emphasizes the importance of keeping your other social media accounts current, saying, “Regularly updated Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts with solid followings and positive fan interactions, are likely to outweigh a less than stellar Yelp page. Just like alternative review sites, active and regularly updated social media accounts are likely to occupy those top spots on the front page of Google, as well as positively influence more potential customers.”

Another tactic we recommend is highlighting the good reviews you receive– or portions of the good reviews you receive – as testimonials on your website and other social media channels to combat any negativity.  While offering compensation or actively encouraging positive reviews is frowned upon by Yelp, there are easy ways for you to encourage happy clients to share their experience. The Case Status platform, is one such method. As a client portal, immediately following interactions with their attorneys, clients can go directly through the interface to Google and Yelp to leave reviews.

Ultimately, the same principles of client service that apply offline apply online – be cognizant and responsive to the client’s concern, maintain a professional demeanor, resolve a problem if you are able to, and offer future reparations if possible. In general, if your firm considers focusing on being a client-centric law firm, you will elevate your focus on client communication, perhaps allowing you to receive and respond to negative feedback before it ever hits the internet.  

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