With the growing use of the internet, clients, prospective clients and professional referral sources will look you up online and learn about you before they decide to do business with you. So, you have to maintain a quality online presence, more than merely having a good website. You also must maintain a positive online reputation!
First, let’s start with some basic questions:
- Have you ever Googled yourself or your firm before?
- Do you know that Yelp, Google, and Facebook create profiles for your business (even if you didn’t initiate one) and customers can leave reviews for your company?
- Have you claimed your business profiles (so you can update information about your business and reply)?
- Also, have you appropriately checked and monitored your online reviews (if any)?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then I implore you to take the next 10 to 15 minutes to do so! You don’t have to do an extensive search online for it. It should come up pretty quickly when you look for it. That’s what any existing or potential customer might stumble upon looking you up online.
I would be curious to know if you find anything interesting in your search. I recently did this for an attorney client of ours and noticed that their Yelp profile was not claimed or managed, and that there were a handful of negative reviews found on their Yelp profile (some of them which were from years ago!).
If you are not be actively seeking out online reviews from your clients, and the only postings (or a majority of them) are from naysayers, your online reputation is suffering and, more importantly, you are losing potential business!
I spoke with attorney and Ultimate Estate Planner president, Phil Kavesh, recently about some of his experiences with monitoring online his law firm’s online reviews and online reputation. We put together the following tips to help you (or someone in your firm) to monitor and manage your online reputation.
TIP #1: Claim your online business profiles.
If you haven’t done so already, be sure to claim your firm’s business profile on Yelp, Google and Facebook. There are some other websites for lawyers (like Avvo); however, think about where a consumer is going to be looking online first for information about you. At the very least, start with those top three locations. Update information on your business profile, such as contact information, hours, etc.
TIP #2: Request online reviews from a few select clients.
First, before you do this tip, it is important to look up the policies for each of these sites for soliciting reviews from clients and make sure that you are compliant.
However, for some of these platforms, you can select a few valued clients and personally contact them to see if they can leave you an online review. Give them a choice of where to leave the review, but particularly if you have any negative reviews already on one of your online profiles, you may want to start there. Balance out some of the negative reviews you may have with some positive ones.
That being said, here is one catch that Phil and his firm learned the hard way. Phil discovered that his firm had clients that signed up for Yelp and left positive reviews for his firm’s service, but then those reviews were held in some queue and not posted on Yelp because they were brand new users and Yelp has some guidelines to prevent businesses from fraudulently signing up for accounts and leaving reviews for themselves. So, one suggestion is to ask your clients if they have a Yelp account. If they do and they have left a review somewhere, their review may be fine and get posted. However, if they haven’t left any reviews or they just signed up for an account to leave you a review, ask them to leave a review of their favorite restaurant first and then go to your firm’s page and leave a review. This can help get their review posted to your page.
It’s also wise to not have all of your reviews come in at once. Do this regularly and over some time so that the reviews can be steady and don’t raise any weird or red flags for your company with these sites.
TIP #3: Actively monitor and respond to any and all reviews (and in a timely fashion!).
This is probably one of the most important steps in maintaining a positive online reputation and that’s actively monitoring and responding to the reviews that you do receive. More often than not, negative online reviews comes from a disgruntled beneficiary that wasn’t happy with the way a loved one may have done their planning. They may also not be aware of how client representation works and be unhappy that you weren’t willing to speak with them or provide them information. There’s all sorts of reasons you may get a negative review from someone. But, it’s important that you’re monitoring the reviews that come in and responding to them in a timely fashion. I recommend even responding to positive reviews. It’s a great way to show appreciation to your clients and creates an active engagement with them.
TIP #4: Be sure to maintain client confidentiality and professionalism at all times.
As a lawyer (or even a CPA or financial advisor), it is important that you maintain client confidentiality and a level of professionalism at all times. People can be brutal and their comments may be false and even defamatory, but it is important that you maintain your cool and respond accordingly. You can reply with something like, “We just wanted to let you know that we received your message/review and we are looking into this matter further for you. Given client confidentiality and the nature of this matter, can you please send an e-mail to ____________ so that we can discuss this matter further with you?”
On Facebook, you are able to message and directly interact with anyone that may post a review and go back and forth. However, on Yelp, you are allowed to send a single message back to the Yelp user, but that’s it. You may even send an initial message to them letting them know that you are only permitted to send one message and give some basic facts to address any particular concerns they may have mentioned in their review (if appropriate), but then defer them to contact someone directly in the firm. Since Yelp only allows one private message to a user, you may wish to reply privately first and then, if no further action taken, post a full and detailed response to the negative review.
BONUS TIP: If you are a part of a larger firm, even if it’s not the principal attorney (business owner), it may be helpful to provide the e-mail address of the principal attorney so that this particular person feels like it was important enough to be escalated up the chain of command and directly to the person in charge!
TIP #5: Contact the platform to have false and/or defamatory postings removed.
The best first course of action is always to engage with the poster and kindly point out how their posting misstates facts and documents unwarranted harm to your firm, its employees and their loved ones who depend on the firm for their livelihood. If the poster does not voluntarily remove the posting in a timely fashion, then you may want to escalate the matter further and contact the online platform directly. Present a well-reasoned, factual and non-emotional argument as to why it should be removed and be sure to mention those key words that the statements are “false and defamatory”. While you won’t get all negative postings removed, you will get some taken down, which can improve your overall rating. Even when you don’t succeed, you do alert the platform managers, who then tend to be more willing to block or remove future negative, false and defamatory postings, or allow for any positive reviews that they may not have allowed to be posted.
TIP #6: Regularly monitor your online reputation.
Last, but certainly not least, keep monitoring and maintaining your online reputation. While some of your elderly clients may not be online, their adult children may be looking out for them and do their own online research. You don’t want to have any bad marks out there, particularly if they’re untrue or from misunderstandings of a disgruntled beneficiary.
In conclusion, you won’t be able to control what everyone posts online about you and your firm. However, how you can monitor it and address it appropriately to help regain the faith and business from those that may be looking online to assess whether or not to hire you. And, if you’re wondering whether or not you (the attorney/business owner) should be the one responding and handling this (at least addressing negative reviews), we would say YES! This falls under “Marketing”, which is one of the two tasks that we believe are the most effective use of your time.
So, get to it and improve your reputation and increase your incoming business!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is the Executive Director of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. Kristina has helped numerous estate planning attorneys with seminar marketing and practice management. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.