The internet offers unprecedented ways for us to communicate and connect with clients and potential clients. But it can also be a treacherous place, offering a veil of anonymity that can let dissatisfied clients post negative comments and reviews they’d hesitate to tell us in person.
So, short of filing a lawsuit, how can law firm owners minimize the impact of negative reviews and manage their online reputations? Here are five practical suggestions:
- Do a Good Job. Practicing law competently, keeping your word, and generally providing great client service go a long way toward producing happy clients. And with happy clients comes a good reputation, both in the physical world and online.
- Be Aware. Speaking of your reputation, you can’t manage it if you don’t know what it is. If you haven’t done so already, take a deep breath and Google yourself. Better yet, set up search alerts for your law firm name and your personal name. This way, you’ll get an email every time you’re mentioned online. Google now lets you do this from the Google dashboard using its “Me on the Web” tool.
- Be Quick to Address the Negative. You can’t please everyone, and sooner or later you’ll have to deal with an unhappy client. If a complaint happens to surface in the form of a negative online comment, don’t ignore it. Instead, investigate and see if it’s legitimate. If there’s anything you can do to fix the problem, do so right away. Not only is this the right thing to do, it can transform a public complaint into a glowing positive review. What about illegitimate complaints? Use your discretion, but if you decide to respond online, remember to remain courteous and professional – preserving your reputation and proving yourself right aren’t always the same thing.
- Solicit Positive Reviews. Most of your clients are happy, right? Happy clients are often much quieter than unhappy clients, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Don’t hesitate to ask clients for positive reviews.
- Be Proactive. When it comes to your online reputation, you have more power than you might realize. The more active you are in updating your website, posting new blog entries, and connecting via social media, the more positive buzz there is about your firm. And if a negative review or comment does appear, it’s quickly replaced in search results by all the positive information you’re communicating about who you are and what you have to offer.
Has your firm ever encountered negative internet feedback? How did you deal with it?
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Associate Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (800) 846-1555
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