What happens if it turns out someone doesn’t like you, and posts a negative review online? Rainmaking expert and trainer, Jaimie Field, talks about it in this week’s recommendation.

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A number of years ago, in Rainmaking Recommendation #97: You’re So Vain, I wrote about doing vanity searches (ego surfing) to find out what is being said about you on the internet.  Six years later it still holds true.  You should see what is on the internet about you because you are trying to build your personal legal brand.
But, what if while doing so, you’ve come across something that is negative.  A review that you don’t like, and you freak out!  You are angry!  You want to take your computer monitor or laptop and throw it out a window.

Or worse – you want to respond immediately!

What are you going to do about it?

The very first thing to do is BREATHE!

If you have to literally step away from the computer then do so.  Do not respond in the heat of the moment.

A little secret:  everyone wants to be liked.  So when you see something that hurts your feelings, it makes you feel less than, and you want to defend yourself.

Nowadays, people are getting their redress for actual and perceived wrongs by posting their criticisms online.  Entire industries – review sites – are built around getting the feedback of others on your services and sometimes it is not pleasant. Rather than contacting you directly to tell you what you are doing wrong, your client may go to the internet and complain.

We all have a tendency to get hurt when someone says something bad about us, whether it is true or not.  And as a result, we will react immediately without thinking.  And from a marketing standpoint, this could be detrimental to your personal legal brand if you fly off the handle (not to mention that in the United States, there are rules of professional conduct that could be violated if you respond in a particular way).

You have to think of reviews, all reviews both good and bad, as a marketing opportunity.   It’s an opportunity to see what you do well and what you can do better.

Is this review true? 

The first thing you should do with any negative review, if it is true, is to respond to the client privately. It is my suggestion that you contact the client via telephone and have a conversation with them.  Take the time to listen to your unhappy client.  And then apologize, particularly if it true.

By responding privately, you refrain from making mountains out of molehills in an on-line forum where the public can see.  You do not draw any more attention to the problem.  At that point, you can also kindly request that the client revise their complaint to explain that it was addressed, or delete it entirely.  You never want to spark a back and forth debate online where it becomes public for the world to see.

If the review is not revised, or the client will not delete it you can choose to respond to this comment directly by writing online: “we have gotten in touch with the client to discuss this issue and thanked them for bringing to our attention.”

By responding like this you are taking the opportunity to say you’re sorry in public. What people want and appreciate most is authenticity and transparency.   Resist the urge to delete or censor the person’s comment.  Instead respond in a thoughtful way.

Also, respond in a timely manner.  Unanswered complaints are left there to rot and fester and that’s not effective management of your reputation.

Is the review false?

There will always be trolls on the internet. And there will be people, who for whatever reason, will try to damage your reputation.
If the review is patently false, then contact the sites management and kindly, and this is the key word, kindly ask them to take it down.  If you have proof that the review is false, and can do so without revealing client confidences, then include that information in your email to the sites’ management.  They will then contact the person who wrote it and if they stand by the review, most sites will leave it up, even if it is anonymous on the site.  If they cannot verify the reviewer, or the inquiry is not responded to, the site will take it down.

Don’t get negative reviews in the first place

The very best way to deal with negative reviews is to not have them in the first place. If that sounds obvious, consider the lengths companies will go to in order to take away bad publicity when what they should have done was simply make things right with the client in the first place.

No lawyer has a perfect track record on every count, and clients will be largely forgiving if you regularly provide great service and are quick to resolve problems that they have.

This requires you to have great relationships will your clients.  It means connecting with them regularly.  It means listening to them carefully.  You have to develop a reputation as a lawyer that can be trusted, and legitimate negative reviews shouldn’t be much of a threat to your practice.