Yesterday we sent a more personal email out to your best fifteen to twenty clients from the past couple of years. Today we are going to work on crafting an email you can send to your happy clients at the end of each case going forward. We will talk about other ways to ask for reviews that can build a stronger client service culture, but at a minimum, you should do the follow-up email for what you believe to be satisfied clients.
A Note on Ethics
Before we dive into the email though, I do want to talk about some of the ethics issues we are seeing around the country with regard to online reviews.
In general, we have typically fallen on the side of “online reviews” are very different from a crafted testimonial that you would put on your website or in any other advertisements.
We understand some attorneys are not allowed to ask for testimonials, depending on the state. However, you should know that you are not asking for a testimonial; you are simply asking someone to go to a website and leave a review. Review sites are a public forum, and clients can leave the review there with or without your assistance.
That being said, however, we are seeing states (wrongfully in our opinion) start to put stricter rules and guidelines in place for lawyers trying to encourage online reviews of their law firm. So you do need to understand the rules in your state.
For example, in Florida, there are opinions that a lawyer is responsible (yes, responsible, a very strong term) for the content of any online reviews left for their firm if they requested the review.
This is overly strict in our opinion, but it is a published opinion in Florida. Yes, you have no control over the content and likely cannot have it removed by the review company just because it violates a self-governed peer industry professional rule of conduct, yet you are responsible for it.
In Ohio, we see something similar, except Ohio says you are responsible for the content of the review as long as you can control the review online. A little better, but it does put the effort on the law firm to monitor reviews and document the attempts they make to have a review that violates the ethics rules taken down from a review site.
What does this mean? If you ask for reviews, you should go a step further and suggest you’re your client shouldn’t talk about the details of the case, but just talk about what it is like working with your firm.
In the past, we encouraged attorneys to hand out cards, add requests in the email signature, and periodically e-mail all of their clients, asking them to leave a review. We now only recommend some of this strategy to tread carefully based on the ethical issues discussed above.
Hiring Help With Reviews: Watch Out
Be extremely careful when hiring someone to help with your review process. Many services will claim to be able to get you lots of reviews. The only thing an agency can and should do is help guide you in the process.
If they play any role in the actual acquiring of reviews, you are opening yourself up for serious ethics violations. Some of these “services” even create the reviews themselves and post them from one IP address.
Google and other review sites can tell the reviews written by these services are fake. As a result, the reviews will not benefit your online presence. In addition, this sort of review fabrication is against the law.
This past year, Google, Yelp, and, even, an attorney general increasingly targeted companies faking reviews. Google filtered a number of reviews from Google My Business pages with no explanation. Yelp sued a law firm for repeatedly trying to create fake reviews on its Yelp listing. And, in September 2013, the attorney general of New York executed a sting operation investigating businesses using fake reviews and issued penalties totaling $350,000.
We do not recommend you use a service at all except for the platforms that sit on your website that we will mention in the next few days.
If you hire a company to provide reviews and it cheats the system, you can be held liable by both the online community and your bar association.
Bottom line? Do not create or purchase fake reviews. Ever.
The Right Way to Ask for A Review
The best way to receive reviews, as already mentioned, is to ask for them and follow-up, or have someone on your staff follow up. You can also mail or e-mail clients to ask for reviews. Here is a sample review request you could send to a client upon completing their case:
Thank you for working with our law firm. To help others just like you find our firm and know the work we do, it would be appreciated if you could take five minutes to leave us a review online.
Please avoid talking about details of your case and please do not use words like “best” or “guarantee.” Just give your honest opinion of what it was like to work with the team at our firm.
Here are links to our profiles:
Thank you in advance for your time.
Note, this isn’t all about Google My Business; you want to send people to several different directories. You do, of course, want reviews on Google My Business, but you also need to diversify. Request reviews on other sites as well, such as Yelp, Avvo, Citysearch, and the others you’ve identified as your target directory listings in your Review Inventory Spreadsheet.
Your clients may already have an account on one of these sites, and it would be easy for them to leave a review saying what a wonderful job you did.
Again, it’s important to note reviews are absolutely, positively, not testimonials; these are reviews consumers can do on their own. In fact, you’re only trying to encourage a behavior already happening by consumers for many businesses. You may have been surprised by the reviews you already had when you did your review research.
When you ask, you’ll find, more often than not, people are more than willing to help you by writing reviews. Tomorrow we will discuss a system that you can set up to increase client feedback and help build a culture of client service that can lead to even more reviews.