We can all agree (hopefully) that the prominence and importance of online reviews (Google, Yelp, etc.) is only growing. Professional service firms – law, real estate and finance – have always been reluctant to ask clients to post reviews because it opens the door to having potentially negative comments about the firm accessible to anyone searching the internet. It’s true, you can’t prevent a bad review from ever happening, but that shouldn’t be the reason to not participate. Overlooking the power of positive reviews can impact your firm’s marketing tremendously. By being proactive and asking clients for feedback, you’re involved in the process and it’s less likely you’ll be caught off guard by a negative review. It also demonstrates that your firm cares what clients think.

For those that are still not sold on the idea, here are the benefits of online reviews and how to best approach clients for feedback.

Consumers are More Likely to Hire You with Online Reviews

When was the last time you made a major purchasing decision without researching online? This has become the norm for consumers, as has scrolling to the review section to read comments or determine the “star rating.” Hiring a lawyer, real estate professional or accountant is no different.

A Findlaw survey showed that two-thirds of consumers would be more likely to hire a lawyer with online reviews. Over 81 percent of Millennials (age 18-35) said they would be more inclined to hire lawyers with online reviews, and nearly half of Baby Boomers said the same. According to a study from Reviewtrackers.com, 70 percent of clients are willing to go to an attorney’s office in a less convenient location if that attorney has better reviews and higher ratings than legal professionals who are closer to home.

Its clear prospects are paying attention to reviews, so why miss out on an opportunity to sell your firm?

Online Reviews Will Boost Your Firm’s Visibility with Search Engines

Google’s algorithm looks at a range of factors to determine whether a website is legitimate and trustworthy. Online reviews are seen as an endorsement of trust and contribute to fresh content about your firm with useful keywords. This helps improve search rankings and overall search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

Reviews on other sites give people an opportunity to find your firm and click through to your website. SEO rankings are influenced by click-through rates, so if prospects are regularly visiting your website from Yelp, for example, Google will reward your site with a better ranking.

It’s also important to note that feedback from others may be just as important, if not more important, than what your firm says about itself on your website for ranking purposes.

How to Ask Clients for Reviews

It’s always a little uncomfortable asking clients for a favor. We want you to think of it less as a favor, but more as a way for the client to help you because of how much you helped them and made their experience wonderful. Here are five things to keep in mind when requesting client reviews:

  1. Don’t write the review (unless the client asks you to). You can give the client guidance on what to write but try not to put words in their mouth. Online reviews should be authentic so that readers believe clients wrote them and not your firm. It’s appropriate to say, “I hoped you could discuss my communication throughout your experience and your feelings on the outcome,” or something similar. The point is to give them some guidance on how to write a review as for many, it may be their first time.
  2. Be judicious about who you ask. If the experience didn’t turn out as you expected, or you’re questioning how the client will respond to a review, don’t ask. Focus on the homerun outcomes.
  3. Automate the process. Consider making the request for an online review part of your process when closing out a successful matter. It’s best to ask while you have the client’s attention and your great work is fresh in their mind. Automate the request via your customer relationship management (CRM) system or similar platform so it happens automatically. Keep your email short and include a direct link for the client to post their review. Ensure the process is easy and seamless so there’s no reason for them to decline your request.

Again, don’t get scared by a negative review. Not every review will have five stars and rave about your firm. Even though the outcome may have been successful, clients tend to remember the small hiccups. View this as an opportunity for your firm to learn from mistakes, communicate openly with clients and make changes moving forward.

Lastly, once a review has been posted, strive to acknowledge all reviews. Once the review is posted, write a brief response: “Thank you for trusting me” or “I appreciate the opportunity to work with you.” This conveys to others reading the reviews that you are attentive and professional. If it’s a negative review, don’t get into an online back-and-forth battle, but negative reviews should also be addressed. Ideally, you can pick up the phone and speak with the disgruntled client directly. Hopefully, this resolves the issue, and you can politely ask if they will revise or remove the review.

Online attorney reviews are another helpful tool to reach potential clients. If you take advantage of them and are consistent about it, you’ll be in a good position to bring in new business.