Building Trust: Encouraging Online Reviews

The legal sector is one where trust is a main influencing factor – both in converting leads into clients and retaining them once they’re on your books.

When you want to instil trust in your firm, reviews should be one of the first elements you look at. Social proof – evidence provided by real clients – is an undeniably powerful tool.

In the first of our series on building trust, we look at how important online reviews are for your firm and how you can encourage your clients to leave them.

The importance of reviews

We’ve probably all heard of the firm who successfully sued a client for leaving a libellous review on Trustpilot. Although most businesses likely wouldn’t go to the lengths this firm went to, we can all understand the desire to.

That’s because people trust their peers’ opinions. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2020, “79% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family”.

The same survey found that 94% of consumers say positive reviews will make them more likely to use a business. So it’s not difficult to see the benefit of cultivating helpful reviews.

Think about your competitors. Are they making use of online reviews? If a prospective client is deciding between two firms and one of those lacks any reviews of their service, which firm is going to come across as more trustworthy?

The Legal Services Consumer Panel has a goal to increase legal firms’ presence on review and comparison sites. As there is generally a low take-up of these services by law firms, maintaining a presence on them is one way of setting your firm apart.

How to encourage reviews

Do you need to encourage more clients to review your firm? Just ask. Once their case has concluded, set up an automatic email thanking them for their custom and asking them to share their experience. Make it easy for them – include a link in the email and consider whether a few prompt questions would help.

Consider your request’s wording carefully. Make the focus on them getting the chance to air their views rather than you getting something out of this exchange. Be polite and appreciative – they’re taking the time to do something for you, after all.

If you’re not getting the response level you expected, you may need to introduce an incentive. Consider entering anyone who leaves a review – both positive and negative – into a competition. It doesn’t have to be a huge prize, but make sure it’s something worth their time. The expense of the prize will be worth it when your reviews start coming in.

Don’t forget to express your gratitude once the review has been left – as long as it’s positive or neutral. You’ll need to work a little harder with a negative review.

It may sound counterintuitive, but it can be a good idea to get the feedback of clients who weren’t completely satisfied. If your firm has only received positive reviews, it won’t look believable. You need the odd negative review in there to keep things realistic. As our head of marketing Andy Cullwick says in our white paper Choosing a Lawyer: What Drives Consumers?, “everyone has unhappy clients… It’s how you respond that’s important”.

Dealing with negative reviews

Negative reviews represent an opportunity. Although the client may not have been happy, it’s still possible to turn their entire experience into a positive one.

If you can reassure the client that you take their review seriously, that you’re looking into their complaint and that it won’t happen again, you can help them feel a little less aggrieved. Show genuine empathy and understanding and your sincerity could help you change their opinion. Acknowledging their dissatisfaction publicly can also help reassure other prospective clients that this was a one-off.

Platforms like Trustpilot allow a reviewer to update their post with their thoughts on how a firm handled their criticism. This can make the effort of a thoughtful and personalised response worth it.

You can also use these reviews to learn something about your firm. If there are a number of posts that share commonalities – such as complaints about communication or multiple mistakes being made by one person – this could be a genuine problem. Identifying it is the first step towards addressing it.

Learning from negative feedback is essential to continuous improvement. So make sure you’re always asking for opinions and let them inform your business decisions.


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