In an extreme example no doubt, but one that clearly highlights why it’s important to play nice when responding to online reviews, a lawyer earns an 18 month suspension. You can read all about the drama on Above the Law here.

You’re not always going to have a perfect relationship or a perfect outcome. Fee disputes can, and will, happen as the normal course of doing business.  Sometimes this can all lead to a bad review. It happens. What’s important when the bad review comes in is to react in a professional manner reflective of your firm’s branding. To me, your responses speak louder than the review itself about what kind of a person you are to deal with.

Ask other clients to provide feedback

As we all know, online reviews are used more than ever in consumer and business decisions. While a decade ago, a disgruntled client might have spread the word to a small pool of acquaintances, today they can easily post their experiences online and instantly have a pretty wide reach. This is both good and bad. I’m all for accountability, but unfortunately clients are more likely to go out of their way to post about negative experiences than positive. One way to mitigate this is by reaching out to other clients and asking them to post their perspectives, thus resulting in a more balanced spectrum of feedback.

Use negative feedback to better your practice

Take the bad feedback you get seriously and leverage it. Negative reviews can actually be a great tool if you make a point of incorporating relevant feedback into your future dealings with clients.

Respond with class

I’m not saying you shouldn’t respond to the bad review. It’s actually pretty important to be responsive and show you really care about client feedback. When you do respond, do it with class. Something like “I’m really sorry you felt that way. I’d love to chat with you about your experience to see how we could have done better.” Above all, don’t ever get into the he-said, she-said game. Those can get nasty real fast.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but it’s never ok to use private, confidential information about the client or the case in your response.

Use the front page approach

If you post in haste, things can spiral out of control. I use what I like to think of as the front page test (yes – I’m borrowing unashamedly from a dear mentor with whom I worked for many years). If you’d be ok with your parents and grandparents reading about it (out of context) on the front page of the Times, go ahead and post. If it’s questionable how they would react, perhaps it’s better to pass. As an aside: It might be a good idea to apply this one to e-mails too – you never know to whom they’ll be forwarded or where they will end up.

In all honesty, everyone is going to get a bad review sometime. The consumer knows this. In fact, I’m much more apt to trust what look like balanced reviews, than overwhelmingly glowing reviews that are probably written by your parents or dog.

Yes, you are going to get a bad review sometimes. It’s not the end of the world.

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