Why These Negative Reviews Are Actually Good for Your Firm

As a professional services firm, you will find that people are the cornerstone of your business. Your business goals aren’t as simple as selling a one-size-fits-all product. Every client’s needs, personality and perspectives are different — which means it’s inevitable that somewhere along the line, a client is going to be unhappy with your services. And now that online review sites have exploded in popularity, it’s likely that a displeased customer will take their complaints to the internet.

It’s tempting to simply delete negative reviews and bury your head in the sand, but you don’t have to live in fear of criticism. In fact, it’s been shown that a few less-than-positive reviews don’t hurt business, and they can be important in making your firm look genuine.

Negative reviews are also an opportunity to see where your firm can improve its service. Think of them as free market research. Look for patterns, and try to pull out the useful bits of information in each review. It seems great to have dozens of five-star reviews, but ultimately, glowing reviews don’t offer much guidance when it comes time to strategize or refocus. You have to face the bad reviews to get the positive ones.

If you’ve ever received one of the common reviews below, read between the lines and use it as an opportunity to examine your business practices. Instead of getting annoyed or defensive, take the negative in stride and leverage it.

“They weren’t responsive.” Staying in contact with clients while keeping their costs in check is a delicate balance. Oftentimes, people don’t need a long conversation or a meeting — they just want to know that their needs haven’t been forgotten. Do you need to make it easier for people to contact you? Should you add a phone number, a personal email address or a chat box to the contact page on your website? Do you need to set up automated emails telling clients their messages have been received? Or perhaps the problem lies in your own time management, and it would be helpful to hire more administrative staff or determine a more efficient way to tackle your inbox.

“It was expensive.” Like communication, sometimes the “high” price of your services is just a problem of perception. Do you need to be more upfront about your costs? Provide a rationale for your pricing? Send invoices more frequently? Maybe your prices are higher than your competitors’ and you need to do a better job advertising the superior quality of your services. If your costs truly have crept up, perhaps you can automate minor tasks to save your clients money. Examine your workflow and see if there is anything you can do more quickly or more cheaply without sacrificing quality.

“They didn’t get me the results I wanted.” This can be the hardest review to face but also the most critical to address. Are you overpromising in your marketing materials? Can you be clearer about the results clients should expect? Are you taking on business that isn’t truly in your wheelhouse, rather than referring clients to a colleague? When you sense that a client is growing unhappy because things aren’t going as expected, see if there’s anything you can do to right the ship. You may not be able to control every outcome, but being empathetic and suggesting a plan B (or C, or D) can go a long way.

“&*$% this company!” Sometimes, it’s not you — it’s the client. When you get an over-the-top, expletive-laden review, remind yourself that you don’t have to accept everyone’s business and this isn’t the type of client you want to work with in the future. In most cases, you were never going to please the reviewer, no matter how hard you worked. The good news is that if these reviews are few and far between, most potential clients know enough to write them off as flukes.

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