If you haven’t already experienced one negative online review, congratulations, but understand that sooner or later, it probably will happen. Even the most diligent and service-oriented estate planning and elder law firms come into contact with difficult clients or difficult situations that lead to a negative review being posted. It is never pleasant; no one likes being accused unfairly. And just like you would not fly off the handle in person, although you might want to, you’ll need to handle this negative review in the most productive manner possible.
First, take a deep breath. Next, verify that the person actually was a client or a prospect. Gather up office notes, documents, billing records and any pertinent material that relates to this person. Make a thorough review of the materials and figure out where their complaint came from. Was it a misunderstanding, or did your office drop the ball? Were their client expectations that were not addressed from the start of the relationship? Or was a court decision not in their favor?
Once you have identified the root of the complaint, you’ll have the information you need to make the best possible response.
Few things are more frustrating than a negative online review. You cannot control what people are posting, and while you may know the complete story and, equally important, the personality behind the negative review, the public does not. Unless….
Worry less about a negative review with improper spelling, poor or no punctuation and excessive use of capital letters. Anyone reading an online review will recognize that the person writing the post is coming from what we politely call a bad place. A thoughtful negative online review that is well written and contains a lot of detail is more damaging that one coming from an emotionally overwrought person.
Next, consider the correct response. Has the matter been dealt with? Is the court involved? The local bar association? Depending on the situation, it may be prudent to hold your fire until the issue has been resolved.
Once the issue has been resolved and you are cleared to comment, it’s time for a thoughtful response.
Whether the person has a legitimate complaint or not, your first sentence should recognize the feelings of the person and apologize, even if they are in the wrong. You want to present yourself and your firm in the best possible light. “I am sorry that you had a bad experience with our firm.”
Then state your overall larger purpose: “We take every step possible to ensure that our clients are treated with great care and respect.”
Then address the issue, within the parameters of the law and your legal and moral obligation to protect the privacy of clients—even those who are disrespectful and/or out of control. Describe the issue, in simple, clear terms, so that the next person reading the review will understand the problem and how it was addressed. If the client was not willing to participate in the resolution of the problem, include that fact also. Close your statement with final sentence repeating your firm’s message of service, compassion, commitment to client satisfaction and quality work.
Always take the high road, especially with online reviews. They live forever.
And then, make sure that you ask what we call your “raving fans” to add their reviews to the page. If you have 45 great reviews and one angry negative review, the message will be clear: your firm does great work and cares about clients.