“I called you because I read an online review.”
It happens more often than you think, and if your law office isn’t building up a review culture, your competitors will soon be getting the exact clients and cases you need to grow your practice.
People used to just reach out to friends and family to get referrals for attorneys. Now they take that personal recommendation, type your name into Google, and see what comes up.
To be successful in this new environment, you can’t just be the smartest lawyer in town. You also need to be responsive to your client’s wants and needs and be ever mindful of their entire experience. This means monitoring how things go from first contact to closed file.
Reviews help you solve sticky customer situations and, when handled correctly, are the engine that powers business development for your law firm. Law firms must be more responsive to customer service issues.
How you handle positive, neutral, and negative reviews is critical to the future growth of your firm.
What Are Online Reviews?
An online review is just an account of how things went, uploaded to a public portal. There are industry specific review sites, like Avvo, but you’re just as likely to be reviewed on Yelp, Facebook, or Google.
Consumers tend to use platforms because they are familiar with them, and it doesn’t require them to register for a new account just to leave a review for you.
Most sites encourage both written comments as well as star rating reviews.
Almost immediately after a review is written, it’s available for public viewing. And it becomes associated with your firm’s listing – even if you aren’t aware you have a listing on that site.
It’s critical to claim as many listings as you can and make sure the information associated with the firm is accurate and correct. Many times, listings are “user generated content” and inaccuracies from office check ins can cause headaches with search engine optimization (SEO) down the road. Plus, most reviewers actually do expect you to comment on their review or issues they raise (while respecting attorney-client privilege).
Are People Really Relying on Reviews to Hire a Lawyer?
People are relying on reviews before buying or hiring. As a result, online reviews are one of your firm’s most powerful marketing tools. With 88% of consumers revealing that they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, you’re going to limit your ability to attract new clients if you don’t ask for reviews as cases close out.
Everything that validates a potential client’s decision to hire you or gives them an inside view into the quality of your services and representation, puts you ahead of the competition.
Your marketing can say you’re the best lawyer in town, but when a former client says it, it is so much more effective in attracting new business opportunities.
How To Ask for Reviews From Every Client
Asking clients for an honest online review can initially feel a little awkward. Especially if you’re worried you may receive a negative review from a client whose results didn’t meet their expectations.
Or you may worry that soliciting reviews is an ethics quagmire. The ABA has issued guidance on online reputation management and likely your state or local bar association also has opinions to guide you.
To receive the maximum benefit from reviews, you need to establish a method of collecting them consistently. Reviews have a limited shelf-life, with most losing their effectiveness after just three months.
You want to ask clients to review your services as soon after your representation has wrapped up as possible. This will ensure the experience is still fresh. And if their experience was a truly positive one, the sooner you ask, the more receptive they will be to reviewing your services.
There are several automated systems that can request and collect reviews for your firm. These types of services make it easy to ask every client for feedback on their experience with your firm. It also simplifies the process for clients to leave reviews on the listings and platforms you select. The bigger the body of the reviews, the more effective. By asking clients to review you on one or two carefully selected sites guarantees you don’t end up diluting the strength of your reviews.
Depending on your practice area, it can take time to get from new client to closed case. Be realistic about how quickly you can generate reviews. But, if you have fewer opportunities to solicit reviews from past clients, the more critical having a reliable system in place to gather reviews will be to your law office.
Even though getting positive reviews is the goal, you can only earn those reviews by giving great legal advice and by providing an excellent customer experience for your clients. Never risk your credibility and reputation by offering even token gifts or other incentives in exchange for a positive review.
Used correctly and requested consistently, online reviews are powerful tools that will generate referrals, new cases, and actionable feedback regarding your services.
Pro tip: If you’re asking for clients to send you reviews, be sure to remind clients not to share personal information or case details that they would not want widely known. The ABA mandates that any review you receive must be published unedited, as written by the client.
Schedule Regular Reviews of Reviews
When you decide to establish a review culture to build your firm and attract new clients, you need to set aside time to review the incoming feedback and have a policy for responding to reviews.
If you are complimented, express your thanks. If something didn’t quite meet expectations, take the time to acknowledge the shortcoming while maintaining client confidentiality.
It may help to think about less than perfect reviews this way: how you respond to them isn’t necessarily for the person who left the review, but rather for the potential client who is reading the review now and deciding whether to hire you.
You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be human.
In fact, Martindale-Avvo CMO, Kelly Newcomb, says, “the sweet spot for review scores is typically between 4.0 and 4.7, not 4.9 and 5.0.”
Make the time to go over the reviews. Schedule regular sit downs with staff and stakeholders to make sure you’re getting the marketing and client satisfaction benefits from your online reviews.
Establish a Successful Review Culture to Grow Your Law Office
To start using reviews to grow your law firm, you need to set up, claim, or optimize your listings on various platforms from industry specific sites like Avvo, to Yelp, Facebook, and Google. Make it easy for clients to review you where they are already registered and have an established online presence.
Begin a policy of asking clients for reviews at the end of every case. Always encourage clients to speak about the experience of working with you rather than revealing private details of their case.
Never offer incentives for positive reviews; consumers seem to be able to identify “paid for” reviews and less than authentic reviews can tarnish your online reputation. If you don’t have the systems in place to collect reviews, there are great online services that you can use to make getting current reviews a part of your client off-boarding process.
It isn’t five-star reviews that guarantee more cases and clients. It’s your commitment to asking for and responding to feedback that validates you in the mind of your ideal client and puts your law office ahead of the competition.
If you think using a review platform will help you get more reviews and more clients, speak to one of our law firm marketing specialists right now. They will guide you through what’s available, the investment needed, and why it has a high ROI.