Do you have a policy for responding to online reviews – both good and bad?
If not, you could be missing an opportunity to defuse potential problems and attract new business.
A huge number of consumers – more than 80 percent, according to this survey – read online reviews for local businesses. The number is even higher for 18 to 34 year-olds. And close to 90 percent of consumers pay attention to what businesses say in response to reviews.
Nobody likes getting a bad review. But what these numbers suggest is that the manner in which you deal with reviews can either help or hurt your practice.
“More than ever, potential customers are relying on review sites to inform their purchasing decisions,” writes Kaylee Kolditz in A Complete Guide to Managing Online Reviews. “It’s critical to know what reviewers are saying about your business and to respond well.”
Three-Step Response Plan
For attorneys, some of the top review sites are Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, Avvo and Better Business Bureau. It’s important to know what people are saying about your firm on these sites and to have a systemized response plan.
“Commit to taking a few initial steps and then establish a habit of consistently monitoring and managing your reviews,” says Kolditz. “You can then ensure your company is represented well and leverage online reviews to help you improve your business.”
Here is Kolditz’s three-step review management plan:
Step One: Know Your Reputation
- Google yourself. Plug your name and your firm’s name into search engines. What do you find?
- Monitor the major review sites. If you haven’t already claimed and created your profile page, do so now. “Reviews impact your search engine rankings, so it’s beneficial to be on the major review sites,” says Kolditz.
- Analyze your reviews. What are people saying? Notice any trends or patterns?
- Respond to recent reviews. “It’s best to respond to reviews shortly after they’re posted. Consider responding immediately to at least the most recent ones.”
Step Two: Respond to Reviews
“It’s important to respond to reviews,” says Kolditz. “It shows that you care about your customers. Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to address any issues and share your side, if needed.”
- Represent your brand well. Be professional and respectful. Use good grammar.
- Say thank-you to positive reviews. Let them know you appreciate their feedback.
- Reply thoughtfully to negative reviews. Be careful and intentional about how you respond (if at all). Don’t fire off an emotional reply. Don’t be defensive or argumentative. Try to understand the reviewer’s perspective. Share your side, if appropriate and ethical. “If the review is accurate, consider explaining what you’ll do to fix the situation for that customer and so that it doesn’t happen again.”
- Ignore trolls. There’s no need to respond to strangers who say ugly or harassing things. Report them to the site manager if the behavior continues.
- Report false reviews. If the review is inaccurate, bogus or defamatory, contact the site manager.
Step Three: Monitor and manage
- Set up search engine alerts. That way, you’ll know when you’re mentioned online. You might discover reviews on sites you’re unaware of.
- Establish a response protocol. Designate someone to monitor new postings and respond accordingly. Use the response guidelines in Step Two.
- Ask satisfied clients to post reviews. Unhappy clients are more likely to post reviews. Counter this tendency by encouraging happy clients to post something about you.
Risk Management Reminders
If you respond to an online review, make sure nothing you say or do violates the Rules of Professional Conduct. Don’t divulge confidential information. Don’t disclose anything about a client or case unless you have the authority to do so.
In addition, don’t take negative comments personally. Maybe the reviewer has a point. Use the occasion to examine your practice and see how you can improve.
A final tip: don’t pick unnecessary fights. Often the wisest response is to do nothing.