How to Deal With One-Star Reviews

Young lawyer frustrated by clients leaving one star reviews
You may find that most of your clients are easy to deal with. However, at some point, you will likely encounter a client who decides to leave you a one-star review online. If you’ve recently been given a one-star review on Google, Yelp, or another platform, you should be aware that you have options to remedy the situation.

Directly Address the Cause of the Issue

If a client has a specific issue, whether related to payment, the way you handled a case, data security, or another problem, fix it as soon as possible. This goes beyond just managing your online reputation.

You should always, and probably already do, put the needs of your clients first. If there were any errors in your billing or case management, the first thing you should do is work to get those conflicts resolved.

Politely Respond to the Review and Take the Conversation Offline

An appropriate response to any negative review should always include:

  • An honest acknowledgement of the client’s problems;
  • An apology that they feel wronged;
  • An affirmation of your personal and firm values; and
  • A way they can contact you privately.

Be clear that you hold yourself to very high standards and do not take this kind of criticism lightly. Offer to speak with them offline, and reiterate that you are working hard to fix whatever issues that are bothering them.

Prevent Disgruntled Clients from Getting that Way in the First Place

The best overall strategy for dealing with angry clients is to not have any angry clients in the first place. If you make sure to follow these few principles with every single client, you can minimize the potential of encountering any upset clients:

Document Everything

It is important that you keep permanent records of all communication between you and the client, starting at the initial meeting. This should be done for all clients, but is especially important when dealing with a difficult client.

All correspondences, including phone calls, voicemail, and emails, should be recorded and documented when possible. Make sure the client is aware of this policy from the start.

Additionally, be very clear whenever you or a staff member is partaking in any activity that can be billed hourly. An easy way to upset clients is to have staff silently sit in on a call without the client’s knowledge, and then bill the client for those extra hours.

Be Clear About Your Relationship with Your Client

Your role is to analyze a potential client’s situation and present them with possible solutions. It is their job to actually decide on which solution they would like to take.

There will be times when a client proposes a solution with which you flatly disagree. In these cases, utilize a “Yes if; No but” policy. If they come up with an idea that you do not approve of, instead of saying “no” to their request, you can instead tell them that you will agree to their request only if certain conditions are met. Conversely, you can politely decline an idea you do not like, and then provide an alternative to indicate that you aren’t thoughtlessly rejecting what they have to say.

Be very clear that you are not there to hold a client’s hand, or guarantee them a solution. However, that does not mean you should view your clients simply as a potential case. Seek mutually beneficial solutions, and do not manipulate them for your own gain.

Employ Empathy

Being an effective attorney requires you to have a fair share of empathy, regardless of your practice area. In many cases, your potential clients are seeking help during very tough times.

Foster their comfort by being kind and understanding. If you demonstrate that you are willing to listen to your clients and work to create the best outcome for them, it will in turn make them more understanding if things do go wrong.

On the other hand, if you are only are interested in what you’ll gain from the case, it will show. If mistakes or setbacks occur, a client will be less understanding and more prone to take action to damage your reputation.

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