I’m a big believer in Rich Barton’s idea that, “if it can be rated it will be rated.” And while all the “bugs” in online ratings haven’t quite been fleshed-out, if you’re not paying attention to what is being said about you online, you might lose potential clients before they even contact you.
More and more, when someone “looks you up” online, they have an expectation that they will find something about you. Your profile on your attorney website, stuff you’ve written on your blog and perhaps even social networking profiles are all things that people who are looking for you online might expect to find when they search.
And while each of these is certainly worth your consideration, they are all things that are published by you. And so, their reliability in terms of forming an opinion about you is inherently suspect.
On the other hand, what other people say about you can be much more reliable.
Internet users tend to place more trust in ratings, reviews and testimonials of people who know you and your services. And so, it behooves you to be conscientious about what people are saying about you and to motivate people to say nice things about you.
How To Motivate Positive Sentiment
The first, and most important aspect to motivating your clients to say nice things about you is to provide excellent client service.
Now when most lawyers think about excellent client service, they immediately think about obtaining good results for their clients. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, for many practice areas, maximizing the outcome of a particular legal situation is exactly what clients hire lawyers to do for them.
However, the results part is only a piece of the client service puzzle. The truth is, in many instances, clients don’t know whether they obtained a good result. They rely on their lawyer to qualify whether a results is “good” or “bad” in light of their circumstances.
What clients are much more capable of assessing is how they feel that they were treated.
If they feel that they were treated well, they are more likely to be be willing to provide a positive testimonial. If they feel that they were treated poorly, they are more likely to leave a negative testimonial.
And the major factor that goes into whether a client feels that they were treated well or not really comes down to communication.
Did you or your staff return client calls promptly? Did you keep them informed at each stage of their legal matter? Did you take the time to explain things in a way that they could understand?
If you poke around a little bit on Google Plus Local law firm pages and Avvo profiles, you’ll quickly see that most of the reviews and ratings by client tend to focus much more on the clients’ perceptions about the level of service that their attorney provided them, as opposed to, the outcome of their case.
Sure, clients that feel that they obtained a good outcome are likely to add that too. But what they really spend time discussing is what they felt about the service that they were provided. Which overwhelmingly is a matter of communication.
And so, the most important thing you can do for your clients (after providing them competent legal representation of course), is to communicate with them in a way that makes them feel, as good as is possible under the circumstances, about the service that you are providing.
After providing great client service, the next thing you’ll want to think about is having a process for asking for, collecting and publishing client testimonials.
When it comes to asking for testimonials, it is more art than science. The last thing you ever want to do is to make a client feel uncomfortable. And in some situations, asking for a testimonial is likely to make some people feel very uncomfortable and might even damage their perception of you. Not good.
However, if you’re providing excellent client service, it’s likely that some clients will want to sing your praises. They may even ask you if there’s anything that they can do. To which I say humbly requesting a kind word is a good idea.
Taking it one step further, you should consider your process for directing clients to leave testimonials. Your firm’s local Google Plus profile is a good place to start. You should also consider Yahoo & Bing local too. Finally, if you’ve claimed your profile and are at least content with your score, you should send them to your Avvo profile too.
Needless to say, there will be many people who simply aren’t comfortable with saying something about you online.
But some will be happy to leave a nice review. And these reviews can have a significant impact on whether people who are searching for you are motivated to contact you about their situation.
Further, reviews on these sites can also impact your visibility online. In other words, the nature and number of your reviews online plays a role in where/when you appear in search results.
Finally, if you haven’t done so already, one of the first things I recommend you do is set up various Google Alerts for your name and firm name. This will help you monitor and manage mentions of you online.
Testimonials & Rules of Professional Responsibility
It’s also important to keep in mind that states have different rules about the publishing of client testimonials. You should check with your state bar before you request testimonials from clients.
The legal profession is very sensitive to protecting the public and regulating communications by attorneys that might mislead the public. In pursuit of those interests, many states have significantly limited a lawyer’s ability to publish or even encourage testimonials.
It will be interesting to see how these rules evolve in the “if it can be rated, it will be”, world.