In the past five years, online reviews have gained prominence in the search results of lawyers. They have become powerful indicators of service, threatening to derail or encouraging the growth of practices.
And while many attorneys bitterly struggle with these reviews as something that just happens to them, two seasoned attorneys with experience in online marketing say that lawyers have more power than they think in controlling this type of feedback.
Speaking at a program, “The New Word of Mouth: Lawyer Ratings and Reviews,” during ABA TECHSHOW 2018, the founder of the digital legal marketing firm AttorneySync, Gyi Tsakalakis, and solo practitioner Erin Gerstenzang of EHG Law Firm, shared the strategies for getting the type of reviews you want.
“Lawyers have very much connected this idea of my value as a lawyer is only in so far as I can get you the result you are looking for. And if I can’t control the result, well, then I can’t control these online reviews,” Gerstenzang explained. “And it’s actually a really faulty assumption.
“Something none of us can control are the results,” she continued. “We can work as hard as we want to. We can go to as many trial clinics as possible. But we cannot control for results.”But we absolutely can control for experience – that’s what really matters to our clients.”
Gerstenzang cited a study by Malcolm Gladwell from his book, “Blink.” Gladwell looked at the kinds of doctors who were being sued for malpractice, expecting that the most competent doctors would be sued the least.
However, Gladwell actually found that incompetent doctors were rarely sued when their patients liked them. The doctors who were being sued were the ones whose patients felt “ignored, rushed or treated poorly,” said Gerstenzang. “It had very little to do necessarily with outcomes. It was more the experience of how they were treated.”
The takeaway for lawyers: Focus on service and the customer experience. “Results matter less [to clients] than the experience they had working with you,” said Gerstenzang.
Developing a solid personal relationship with clients, being relatable and coming across like a “real” person will also contribute to the kind of affirmative client experience that can translate to positive reviews.
That said, Gerstenzang and Tsakalakis say that lawyers shouldn’t just sit around and wait for the positive reviews to roll in. Providing good client service is not enough.
The key to attracting positive reviews is being proactive.
First, identify happy customers, which Tsakalakis said should be possible if lawyers are regularly obtaining feedback from clients through surveys and other means.
“It shouldn’t be part of your standard work flow to ask everyone, ‘Will you review me?’” Tsakalakis said. Rather, you should strategically ask only the ones for whom you’ve delivered a great experience – and whom are effusive about that service. “Clients will say, ‘This was the most amazing experience. You saved me during a difficult time. Thank you!’ That’s the time to think, I’d love for you to go online and give me a review.”
Choose “only the clients where you really feel the love – they want to hug you. Those are the clients you want to ask,” Gerstanzang said.
But don’t wait too long. “Ask them while they are still feeling the glow,” Gerstanzang said. “Do it when they’re still motivated to do it and they’ve taken the day off to go to court with you.” If you wait a week, people’s busy lives will catch up to them, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll take the time for a review.
Another tip: Make sure you are making it as easy as possible for clients to leave their feedback. The process should be “as seamless and frictionless as possible,” Tsakalakis said.
“Don’t make them jump through a lot of hoops. Don’t make them have to come to your office. Don’t make them have to sign up for anything,” he added. Instead, prepare a direct link to the review site, so a dialog box automatically appears when users click on the link.
Doing so will also ensure that you are directing clients to the sites where you want to be reviewed. According to the two marketers, the sites that lawyers should be focused on are the ones that rank highly when users search your name on the internet.
Typically, your Google My Business profile is one of the first results at the top. Gerstanzang and Tsakalakis encouraged lawyers to claim their profile there and recommended the site’s review platform.
But more than just directing clients to review sites, lawyers can also help their clients find the right words to use.
The key is to shape the conversation away from courtroom outcomes and the results, which can be complex and difficult for clients to accurately communicate.
Instead, encourage them to focus on your service.
“The less my clients are talking about the result, the better,” elaborated Gerstranzang. “They may be intending to give me the best review possible, but they start explaining what happened, and they’re terrible at it.”
“Give them the tools to understand what’s valuable to say,” Gerstanzang said. When they ask what they should say, “Tell them to say what it’s like to work with you.”
The marketers also emphasize that lawyers should make it ok for clients to decline. “Don’t make it uncomfortable and awkward,” explained Gerstanzang. “You don’t want them to feel like they’ve done you a disservice by saying no.”
Keep it casual. And don’t follow up with them if the review isn’t immediately forthcoming. Putting pressure on your client and hounding her won’t encourage the kind of positive feedback that you want.
Remember: “The relationship is more valuable than the review,” Tsakalakis said.
For more than 30 years, ABA TECHSHOW has brought lawyers and technology together for an annual conference and expo. The three-day event is produced by the ABA Law Practice Division.