We speak to legal professionals across Canada every day and often we hear about the challenges they face. One of the most common topics that comes up is how to attract and retain a steady flow of customers. In many industries, lowering prices is considered a quick fix. However, the legal professionals we speak to recognize that competing on low prices not only hurts the bottom line, but also makes clients undervalue the important services law firms provide. A better solution is to build a fantastic reputation for good service that makes your clients want to recommend you to their friends and family.
When you research a product you’re interested in, how often do you skip straight to the customer reviews to see what others have said? We value the opinions of others who have already used a product and the same is true when considering an important decision like choosing a law firm. Potential clients no longer turn to the yellow pages and choose the office with the nicest ad. Instead, they start with a Google search to find accounts of personal experiences others like them have had with local law firms.
of 35-54 year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
According to a study done by BrightLocal, 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business. Plus, 82% of consumers are less likely to use a business after seeing negative reviews.
It’s not just clients who are swayed by your firm’s online reputation. Referring attorneys, business partners, potential employees, personal contacts, and competitors may all be influenced by what they see about you online.
Clearly a great online reputation is important for attracting new clients these days. So, where do you start?
The best place to start is simply seeing where you already stand. Search your office’s name to see what comes up when you Google yourself. Ideally, you should see your website as the first listing with an assortment of review websites like yelp.com mixed in.
Within the search results, you should also see this Google My Business panel (pictured). Google My Business is a tool that provides information such as your contact information, website and client reviews to those considering becoming your client. If you don’t see this panel, you can get help setting one up for yourself with our article on Simple SEO Tips to Grow Your Law Firm.
Encourage clients to leave reviews
Encouraging clients to leave reviews can be as simple as including a link within your email signature. If most of your conversations happen over the phone, ask your client if you can send them an email that contains links for them to share their positive experience. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to leave their positive review. However, be patient about asking for a review until a client’s work with you is almost done and you know they’re happy with your service. If you ask for a review too early, it can be off-putting and clients may wonder why you’re asking before their matter is completed.
Monitor what’s being said and respond appropriately
Google, as well as most other review websites, gives you the ability to respond to reviews. Use this opportunity to build relationships by showing appreciation for positive reviews and address any client concerns directly in a polite manner. Even if you disagree with what they said, potential clients will see your professional approach and are less likely to write you off.
- If the negative review has valid points, respond to the client with compassion and emphasize how you have changed things to improve things in the future.
- If the negative review is inaccurate, don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Stay professional and measured in your response. Many times people will recognize that the original review was unfair if you answer it politely.*
- If there is a positive review, make sure you thank them! This will encourage other clients to speak about their experiences and help maintain that original, positive relationship.
*Note: Keep your provincial ethics rules in mind when responding to negative reviews to avoid accidentally sharing confidential information in response to a review. Ask if you can contact the person directly to discuss the matter in depth and make things right.
Highlight positive reviews
Did you receive a particularly glowing review? Don’t be afraid to add them to the testimonial section of your website with a link to the review website or share them on your social media channels. The more ways people can find that fantastic review, the more likely they are to choose your office!
Set up alerts and notifications
Once you’ve set up your My Business profile, make sure to turn on notifications so you can see new reviews as soon as they’re posted. This will help you get ahead of any negative reviews and address them in a timely manner. Next, set up Google Alerts to be notified of everything said about your law firm whether in a review or in the news. Google Alerts will send a brief collection of links to your email when new results for your firm name show up in the Google Search. Not everything will be relevant, but you’ll catch anything that is almost as soon as it is posted.
Active online reputation management should be an ongoing part of any successful law firm’s business development strategy. If a client is unsatisfied, they will find a way to leave a review about it, so why not take control of the conversation and build the reputation you want?