#038 – Responding To Online Reviews

Check Out The Podcast Sponsor, the bestselling, critically-acclaimed book: Click Magnet: The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms 

Find it on Amazon here!

Show Notes: 

TRANSCRIPT

The Legal Marketing Lounge

Responding To Online Reviews

Hi, I’m Annette Choti, an attorney of 20 years that created LawQuill, a marketing agency for small and solo law firms. Join me to learn how to grow your law firm through digital marketing strategies, SEO, social media, and more. Let’s get that law firm of yours more online visibility, a larger digital footprint, tons of organic traffic and more clients. I’m so excited. You’re here, click that subscribe button and join me in the Legal Marketing Lounge.

Welcome back. How are you? I’m good. Thank you.

Thank you for asking. Today we are going to be talking about online reviews. But we’re not going to be talking about how to get them. Because that was a different episode, we’re going to be talking about how to respond to them, the good ones, the bad ones, all of that good stuff. Now, before we get started, I would like to thank our sponsor, Click Magnet, The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms, which is a book that you can find on Amazon. It’s available in paperback and also for your Kindle. And let’s listen to one review. This is from Natalie Bamming. Er, she is a research project manager for Above The Law. And I do have the honor of being a weekly contributor as a digital marketing expert for Above The Law, you can see all of my articles there if you’re so inclined. And Natalie says this book is an engaging breakdown of how law firms can create a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. It makes the concepts of SEO and online marketing easy to understand, for even the most tech averse. Thank you, Natalie, for that recommendation.

And let’s just get into talking about other reviews, your reviews, your online reviews. As we all know, online reviews are really important. Why are they important? Because Google is trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle. It’s an SEO, search engine optimization, jigsaw puzzle, except they don’t have the top of the box, they don’t really know who you are, they don’t know what you look like. And so they’re putting together this jigsaw puzzle blind, they’re going to be looking at your website, at your content on your website, at your social media at your LinkedIn, they’re going to be looking at what you actually post on Google Business Profile, which used to be called Google My Business. And at the end of the day, they are also going to be looking at your Google reviews. It’s really important. In fact, if every piece of the jigsaw puzzle has to be weighed in some way, or given a certain characteristic, I would say that Google reviews, it’s weighted a lot more than other parts of SEO. And it’s just a bigger puzzle piece.

And there are, listen, there are a number of ways that you can get potential clients to look for you. But even if you are doing old school, word of mouth referrals, which is fantastic. At the end of the day, research shows that those people, even if they get your name, through a referral, will go and look you up on Google. So it is really important to make sure that this virtual real estate, this Google Business Profile of yours looks really sharp, the whole Google Business Profile looks really sharp, but also that you have great Google reviews. And one of the things you can do is make sure that you are responding to those reviews correctly. So as a bit of a background as a law firm is building an online reputation. reviews can significantly impact clientele, it can significantly impact whether or not you get more clients and it’s a bit. It’s a bit like once you get the ball rolling, it just grows exponentially those first reviews, they’re hard to get and then over time, you can get more and more and more on the ball, the ball gets really rolling. But if you are looking to improve your online ratings, you really need to understand how to encourage reviews, and then what to do if you receive a positive review, and then what to do if you receive a negative review. It’s really essential to note how to respond to these online views and to understand the implications of, of those responses.

Now, as I just said, online reviews are a valuable resource when prospective clients are searching for an attorney or, frankly, a Mexican restaurant, am I right? We are all looking at online reviews for everything. And most individuals that are looking for a lawyer are doing so for the first time. And it’s likely because of a difficult situation that they’re in. Most people are not searching for a lawyer for fun, right? They maybe had a DUI, maybe they’re in a car accident, maybe they’ve decided that now is the time to look into an estate plan. But the online reviews that law firms have, are going to influence them.

Positive online reviews convey a really strong trust signal to potential clients and prospective clients use these trust signals to determine whether a law firm is trustworthy, and reputable outside of online reviews. Other examples of trust signals could include social media endorsements, website security certificates, that means that your website should say HTTPS, not just HTTP, by the way. And just as a short aside, here, getting a certificate a security certificate for your website is like $50, it’s not very much. So if you still have a website that is not considered secure, even though you’re not selling any goods and services on it, it does show to a prospective client that you are a secure website that you take security seriously. So HTTPS, make sure that your website has that first. Other trust signals are visible contact information, is it easy to get a hold of you, and, frankly, public active social media profiles, people want to see who they’re dealing with before they even make the decision to contact an attorney and schedule an appointment. Essentially, the better your online reputation, the more likely you’re going to obtain clients via online sources. So whether you’re working on building a backlog of reviews, if you have a solid number of reviews, it’s really crucial to understand how to appropriately respond to these reviews, as well as the ethical implications of responding to positive and negative feedback.

Google Testimonials

Before we go any further, I want to talk about using Google testimonials on your website. A lot of people just copy and paste these reviews on their website. And if you are just a normal business, that’s kind of okay to do. If you are a law firm, though, there are ethics considerations that you need to be wary of. Because it is a potential ethics violation, you might be disclosing an attorney client privilege that the client doesn’t want. And I know, I know, that doesn’t really make sense, right? Because they’ve already posted it in a public place. But they did not agree to put that testimonial on your website as frankly, part of your advertising.

So it’s very important that if you want to use a Google testimonial on your website, that you get an agreement from your client to be able to do so. And my best suggestion is to just get that in writing, get that in an email so that you have that, you know, I’m an attorney too. So old habits die hard. I like everything in writing. So you can definitely put these on your website, but you just need to make sure that you have the right to do so.

There are some WordPress plugins that you can use that will automatically pull Google reviews from your Google profile into your website. I would highly advise against using these I know they’re really convenient. I know. But at the end of the day, it is really important that you follow the most stringent and conservative of ethics guidelines, you just don’t want to get in trouble for something like that.

Video Testimonial

So I just want to say that upfront regarding Google reviews, but kind of the bright side of this is if you do have someone who’s left you a glowing review on Google, you might want to take the opportunity when you’re asking them to put their review on your website, whether or not they might want do a video testimonial for you and talk about their client journey with you. These are very powerful on law firm websites. And if there is a particular client that you’ve worked with that has had a bit of an incredible success story with you, asking them if you can put their Google review on your website, just opens the door and gives you the opportunity to ask them whether or not they would consider leaving you a video testimonial, or at least discuss a little bit more for you their client journey.

So that’s just another opportunity for you to get even more validation and proof for new potential clients that you are great attorney to work with, which I know you are. I mean, I know you, you’re fantastic.

Ethical Concerns

So going on to ethical concerns of lawyers, law firms, attorneys, and how you are responding to online reviews. The truth is, I don’t know if you know this, but some people don’t like lawyers, right? I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard a lawyer joke in your life. But I’m sure we all have, and probably too many times. Attorneys, unfortunately, are the targets of criticism no matter what we do. And unfortunately, no matter how well you practice the law, you are not going to satisfy every client. In fact, you may not satisfied people, even if they’re not your client, they can leave you a bad review and say they didn’t like the way the person answered the phone at your law firm.

So as such, you should expect I’m sure you probably already do the occasional negative review and be prepared to consider responding appropriately. And responding appropriately means ensuring you do not violate your duty of confidentiality.

ABA Model Rule Of Professional Conduct

Now, I talked a little bit before about that. But I want to go into a bit more of a deeper dive on that. So according to ABA Model Rule Of Professional Conduct that we all had to learn 1.6, A, you haven’t memorized, right? We’re not allowed to reveal as a lawyer or as a law firm, any information about a client’s case without informed consent. Now, the only exception is when responding specifically to online reviews. And that is stated in rule 1.6 B(5), and you are allowed to reveal information in the following situations in order to establish a defense to a civil or criminal charge- if someone is charging you with something to respond to allegations in any situation where the lawyers representation of your client was questioned, or to establish a defense or claim on behalf of a lawyer in the midst of a controversy with a client.

State and Local Regulations

So in addition to the national ABA rules, it is really important to also know what your state or local practices are that you must abide by every state has different rules and regulations with respect to digital marketing, and some of them are frankly, a bit archaic. Some of them are extremely conservative, and others kind of just don’t even really address the issue. So it is important to know what your state says the most conservative practice is to not answer any reviews at all. And frankly, the truth is that is the safest route that you can go. You can’t get in any trouble if you don’t say anything.

Google Reviews Know-how

So if you tend to be more cautious, and not a risk taker, it might be best for you to just not answer these reviews at all. As a bit of another aside here. If you do get a negative review from someone who said they were a client, but they really weren’t a client, you can actually ask Google to remove that review. Also, if someone is just upset about the way that someone answered the phone in your office, you may be able to get that root review removed as well. And the reason is because they’re not a client of yours. They cannot speak to your expertise to your authority as a law firm.

Also, consider just what we’re talking about here. Speaking of authority and expertise, you do know that you don’t just need to ask clients for reviews. You can ask your network you can ask your peers, people you’ve worked with in the past that can speak to your integrity, to your authority to your level of expertise. Ask these people for Google Reviews, because Google will look at those the same way, as a client.

Basically, Google is just trying to see whether you’re an expert through these reviews, and certainly people that you’ve worked with previous bosses or someone in your network that you have collaborated with. These are great people to go to for Google reviews. So back to answering Google reviews, it should go without saying first and foremost that you should always focus on providing excellent service. Okay, well, we all know that. But I have to say it at the end of the day, if you provide really great service, you have less of a chance of getting negative reviews.

Dealing with Negative Reviews

But you know, what, be that as it may, we all get negative reviews, you just can’t please everybody, right? So just remember that a client is more than their legal issue. And if you really do try to make a lasting positive impression on your clients, and show that you really care more about them than their case, they should feel understood, supported and heard. And there is less of a chance, statistically that you will get these types of reviews. But again, that said, even the most kind, compassionate and caring attorney will find someone that is just fussy pants, right, you just can’t please them no matter what. And that’s the reason that you need to go back and listen to my podcast, where I talk about the ways to grow your law firm online, the digital marketing roadmap, because the beginning of that is about branding.

And if I can just take a hot minute here and say this, that if you really brand yourself correctly. And if you really attract the right clients, then really on the back end with the reviews, you may have less negative reviews, because at the end, you are attracting the right clients because of your messaging and because of your branding. Okay, that was just a little side note.

Asking For Reviews

Okay, so let’s talk about asking for reviews. Now, the question can seem daunting and a bit awkward, but there are ways around directly asking for a written review. But I just recommend that you ask directly anyway, you should, when you’re doing your sort of wrap up with a client and they are super happy, you should ask them for a review on Google. Now you cannot incentivize them, you cannot, you know, make, give them any kind of money for this review, right? But you can ask them at that time.

Another thing that you can do is ask the people that are your either receptionist, secretary, assistant, whoever it is- associate that you’re working with, while these people are waiting in your waiting room, you can ask them to leave you a Google review, then as well, maybe not in the middle of their case, okay. But like at the end, when things are sort of wrapping up, you can ask them to ask your clients and you can incentivize your staff, you can do that you can say,

Hey, listen, for every person, you get to leave me a review, while they’re sitting in our waiting room, while they’re sitting in our waiting room, I’ll give you a $50 Panera gift card, or whatever it is, and then it’s a win win all around. And if you are gauging that the response of your client is enthusiastic, they’re happy about the services that they received, then just invite them to share that experience online. So that they are then helping others make the decision to hire an attorney that is really going to represent them well. They are sort of helping the community by really explaining how you helped them, and how you can help others now, it may not be appropriate to ask a client for review, either directly or indirectly.

And if that and for whatever reason, that is it, you might want to take the option of an automated approach. There are a number of review management software systems on the market that you can just use to email clients a short survey, they can answer these and then they can know that their answers will go on as a Google review and then they won’t feel pressured to provide an immediate or canned response if you ask them directly.

Responding to these Online Reviews

So now let’s really talk about how to respond to these online reviews. Let’s talk about the good news first. Right? We all want to get positive reviews. Every attorney wants to get positive reviews and it’s a bit of an award. It’s a bit of an accolade. When you get that it is absolutely going to increase your chance of obtaining more clients in the future. If you have lots of fun positive reviews. So to boost the impact of positive reviews, you should absolutely respond to them, there really should not be a lot of ethical considerations in responding to an online Google review. That’s positive. Again, if you just don’t want to do that at all. That’s, that’s your right to do that. But you should show appreciation and thank your client for the positive review, and just mentioned an aspect of their review that you particularly appreciated. And, you know, depending on the situation, you could find yourself a repeat client.

So you definitely want to show appreciation, you want to include a call to action in that response. So to improve your top of mind awareness, it’s important to prompt action. When you respond to a positive comment. How do you do that? How do you include a call to action, within a response to a review, you can say, or encourage the client to reach out again, if they need further legal advice or guidance, and this is a way to show that you are still connecting with them, that you are still available to them if they need help. And it also shows prospective clients that you have a real genuine relationship with this person who left a review. Again, you can share these positive reviews on your website, if you get approval to do so. And I highly encourage that.

And also consider not just sharing it on your website, if the person agrees to it, you can also share these Google reviews on your social media. Right, you can be sharing that on your social media platform, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, and then that way you are showcasing your authority and expertise and that people had a really positive experience with you on these social media platforms. And it just gives you a lot of credibility and authority.

Dealing With Negative Reviews

Okay, now let’s talk about the negative reviews. No matter the type of law you practice, no matter how long you’ve been an attorney, no matter how many cases you win, you will undoubtedly at some point receive a negative review. And when that happens, consider the following. Number one, remain calm. This is not going to end your career. This is not going to destroy your livelihood. It is one online review. We all go to Google and look at online reviews. And we all see the negative ones. It’s almost like you haven’t even made it if you don’t have a negative review. So remain calm, it is normal, it’s understandable to get upset when you see a negative review, especially if it is one that is completely unwarranted and unfounded and unfair. But depending on the client, depending on the situation, you need to avoid an emotional response if possible.

So the first thing to do as an any situation is just take a moment, just give yourself a little timeout, give yourself time before responding if you are even going to respond and make a decision whether you want to respond or not. If it is somebody that sounds like crazy, banana pants crazy town, don’t even respond, okay, because people will see that and they will know that that person is just crazy. We’ve all seen it in online reviews, where somebody leaves some hysterical review that is nonsensical, or is just full of vitriol and hatred. And you just know that you don’t know the whole story.

If somebody has 99 positive reviews, and then there’s this one outlier, this one really horrible review. People are gonna look at that and go really there’s probably something wrong with that person with that review or not the attorney or the business or the Mexican restaurant, or whatever it is, right. So just take that into consideration. And if you are at all debating whether or not to answer it just don’t, you can answer it anytime. But once you answer it, it’s sometimes a little bit harder to remove that response because you know, once you put something out on the inter-web, right, it can be captured it can be screenshotted, all of the things so you can always respond to a review, always in a day or a week or even a month, but it’s harder to sort of retract to that, you know, week or a month later if you have said something that you wish you wouldn’t have.

So when in doubt, don’t respond at all. If you are going to make the decision to respond, keep your reply short, keep it professional, make sure make sure that you do not disclose anything that could even look or sound like attorney client privilege.

Additionally, you really may not have the legal right to respond. I know that’s terrible. But if there a client, if they provided sensitive or confidential information within that review, you shouldn’t probably respond to it, because then it could be seen as you are either confirming or denying whatever that sensitive or confidential information is. And that could violate attorney client privilege, it may then be a violation of ethics guidelines to respond. So you should definitely find out what your local state guidelines are. And obviously, this is a case by case situation.

But really, at the end of the day, it is very important that if you do respond to a negative review, that does have some sort of sensitive information in it, that you do not either confirm or deny that information. Another thing that you can do if you get a negative online review is reach out to that person offline. So you can just say in your review, I will be reaching out to you offline, to discuss this matter. So it’s kind of neutral. And then it shows prospective clients that you are handling this matter outside of the purview of the entire world wide web, right. And then go ahead and reach out to that client offline, if you feel like it is really prudent to do so.

If a past client leaves a negative review that you really think you can fix, reach out to them and try to work that issue out maybe there’s something that you didn’t really realize that they were this fussy about something or really upset about something. And just again, in your response to that review, you can say that you have reached out to them personally offline and that you are handling this issue, it is important to know that once you respond to a review, they may have the opportunity to respond to your response. So don’t think that it ends just with you. So don’t think that you are going to say something and then Haha, you have the last word, because they can come back and say something to and now. Now you’ve got a he said she said thing that’s going on that’s uncomfortable for everyone to read on the internet, even if you are right.

So definitely take the time to think about whether or not you even want to respond to these online reviews. Take the time to think about whether or not if it’s even a valid review, maybe you can get Google to remove it. And definitely consider if it’s possible visiting with the person offline in order to rectify or resolve the situation.

So to continuously improve online reputations, it’s really important for you to learn how to respond to online reviews, how to get more reviews, how to handle positive and negative comments.

And I hope that today you learned a little bit of something about how important online reviews are, and what your options are regarding how to respond to them both positive and negative. And if you are looking to get more positive reviews and increase your SEO, of course, I’m always here to help, you can reach out to me at annette@lawquill.com or you can find me at LinkedIn, which is my happy place.

And I’m gonna just take some of my own advice here. You know, this is all about online reviews today. And I would love it if you took a moment and went and left me a review at iTunes, because that helps other people find me in the algorithm. And it can just help other law firms grow online as well. So thank you so much again for joining me. Thank you to our sponsor, Click Magnet, The Ultimate Digital Marketing Guide For Law Firms. And with that, thank you, thank you so much for being here, and I will see you the next time in the Legal Marketing Lounge.