Dealing With Negative Comments Online

Dealing With Negative Comments Online

View profile for David Gilroy
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After the success of our recent Periscope Q&A, we've decided to make it a weekly activity, covering a new topic each Friday. 

Last week, a number of you tuned in to my live session in which I discussed how to deal with negative reviews online. If you missed out, don't worry - you can watch the video below.


Hi, this is David Gilroy, here on our deck at our office in Bristol.  So I'm going to give it a minute or two to see how many people connect with us this afternoon. For those of you here, a couple of weeks ago we did a 40-minute long Q&A session on Law Firm Marketing, and today we're changing it slightly.  We're sitting outdoors because it's quite a bright afternoon, a bit grey here in Bristol, we’ll get interrupted by some seagull noise I suspect. We are going to be talking about how you deal with negative sentiment and negative reviews online, particularly on social media sites and review sites.

I've got my producer Rich with me today. He’s behind the camera, so you won't be able to see him.  If you got any questions about this topic, you know what to do - just type to me into the app, and then we'll take care of them that way. We haven't got a Twitter feed set up here today, so if you do have questions you need to put them into the Periscope App.

So reviews online; I'm going to talk about two things – I’m actually going to show you a piece to start something that I made earlier.  This is a piece of work that we did, and hopefully everybody can see that, for a research project. And what we found is that when people do reviews on review sites, they are far more likely to be positive, massively, than if they just comment on other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.  So, those days with the actual numbers, but we also reviewed law firms with over 800 Google+ page and very small number had reviews on Google Plus.  

So, we need to think about the mechanics of reviews, but we will come back to that later. Let's deal with the sentiment issue. What we found when we did this study, was that if people are going to bother to review you on a review site - and by that I mean Google+ or Google, Trustpilot, Feefo, maybe it's Legally Better - you know there are a number of these review sites, some are generic, some relate just to law firms. So if a client of yours is going to do that that, then typically it’s going to be positive. And that's what the data showed unequivocally.

Now let’s talk about why that would be. Let’s think about a client who's going to comment on a law firm. If they want to complain, they’re probably going to complain to you directly. Let's face it, most law firms are not Vodafone. If they phone you up with a complaint, you have a SRA process you need to follow. You are going to take it seriously. They don't just go into some massive unwashed customer service department.

So that's probably their first recourse. If they want to get a bit shouty online, again, what the data showed is that they are going to do that on something like Twitter or Facebook with some common complaint. And we all know we’ve had clients who complained about the smallest things, and a lot of clients who have got complaints that are not necessarily valid.  If the house sale doesn't go through because other people backed out, technically that's not a problem of yours or the law firm.

So, if they are going to a review site, bearing in mind what lawyers do for a living - which is the law, I think it's no surprise that most people will give you a positive review. If they have given you a negative review it is, I think, perceived to be more permanent than just doing a tweet or more permanent than putting something on Facebook. Even though those are both permanent records, when you go to a review site you typically have to login, create an account, it's got to be more considered.

 As a result of that, it's no surprise to me when we did the research; we found that most of them were positive.  So what's the downside of that in terms of social media? Some of you who are listening in today almost certainly have had some common complaints on Facebook and Twitter. I was working with a firm recently, in a training seminar we were doing, and a week later I got an e-mail saying ‘David, thanks for trying to last week - because of what you said I was brave enough to just leave the complaint on Facebook, respond to it and deal with it.’  I think that's the way you have to do it, but you can't just go deleting things because they’ve tagged you in a Facebook post or they’ve tweeted about you. You can’t just get that stuff taken down, you have to deal with it, and you have to deal with it in a positive way.

Now, the number one thing is to try and get that complain offline. So, what you mean by that is you have to respond in social media to let people know that you have been doing it.  But then you try and get it into your offline process. Now whether that's using a form on your website to get people to fill it in, whether if you are phoning them and discussing it by phone - either way, you want to deal with them offline while you can, and not get into a slating match online.

Now, we saw the news a few weeks ago; the terrible news about Alton Towers, and couple of law firms were tweeting about that. If you look at how much bad press they’ve got about that, it was it was phenomenal. They should have known not to do it. And I know one particular firm “threw a young member staff under a bus” which I don't think was necessarily fair. But a client of ours recently had a complaint on Facebook, so they just dealt with it online. The key thing about that, when you're dealing with it, is that trying to get offline as soon as possible and deal with it in email, by phone, go and see the client if they’re close to you, and resolve it as you would just as if they walked through your door with the complaint.

This is the big difference, though. Once you know the complaint has been properly dealt with, then you need to go and do what we call, “close the loop online”. What I mean by that is, go back to the Facebook post and put another comment, reply again to the tweet in the structure of the conversation, so that if somebody does come across that record, subsequently, they can see that there was a complaint, that you acknowledged it and then you closed it. You said ‘Sorry Mrs. Jones that you had to complain via Twitter, we are glad we can sort that out for you. We would love to work with you again.’

So, the key thing is to make sure when people find that on social media, they can see that that loop has been closed.  So, I think those are the key things about that.  Now ,what about the mechanics of getting reviews?  You know, it is difficult. You may have done testimonials of people on LinkedIn yourself in a professional capacity.  So, depending on the volume of matters you are dealing with, you should be asking everybody to do a review for you.  I reckon, if you ask a hundred people, maybe you are dealing with a hundred matters a month, when those matters get closed you ask a hundred people to do a review - I would mix and match between the different review sites. I would have an account on Feefo, I would have an account on Trustpilot, I would have an account for my Google+ page and share that around. So 30 to one, 30 to another and if you can get 10% of people to do review that would be fantastic.

You know you've all seen it yourselves. You go to Google, you do a search for a restaurant. If that restaurant got positive reviews you are more likely to go. There's been a local consumer survey done recently by BrightLocal. It was done in the US, they researched about 3,000 consumers, 92% of whom said they pay attention to reviews when they're shopping on a local basis. And this was particularly local. BrightLocal is a localised SEO tracking and development tool, so they focus on local, but I think that's true nationally.  Whether you are looking for a restaurant on going to Wrexham next week on a road trip I'm looking for a restaurant in Wrexham, if I'm using Google or Yelp or TripAdvisor -whatever - I'm going to focus on reviews. So, I think you want to be doing that, making sure that you are spreading your reviews around.

Rich: We’ve had a question come in: should lawyers be worried about reviews?

David: I think the answer is No. Are you going to get negative reviews? Yes, there's a chance, but at this data showed, when you look to review sites, 77% of all the reviews were positive.

So you are possibly going get some reviews that are negative, but if you start filtering out and try and say ‘Well that case didn't go very well, that one went slightly over budget, let's not get some feedback’ – the thing is, reviews are just an extension of what we now do in our business for our clients who are using the LawLeague client satisfaction survey tool. That gives you satisfaction data and benchmarking. And now the plan for that is to try and integrate with review sites, but you need to make that process easier. What you can't be doing is writing your own reviews, obviously. You can't be writing them yourselves on to some websites because you would need to create a user account. You could create an account on the client’s name, but I’m not sure if that sits very comfortably for everybody. But the key thing of this is you need to ask, if you need customer feedback, you need to ask. But I think you need to ask a sensible number of people.  There is no obvious ratio. The one that I see a lot is National Accident Helpline. You do any kind of search for them in Google, they've got something like 450 plus 4 or 5 star reviews.

Now, they're not reviewing the outcome of the legal case, they're actually getting people to review the call handling process at N.A.H (and I assume that's what happens because they're not doing the law.) You see it yourselves: you leave a restaurant that you booked online, an hour after you checked out you going to get a request to review. You stay in a hotel, the minute you have left the hotel, you’ll get an email asking for a review.

 So, is there a degree of people thinking they’re all reviewed out?  Yes I think there is, but that doesn't mean to say we shouldn't be asking. Or say we are thinking to get 10% of people to review your case, which would still be great. If you do a hundred cases a month, you are going to get 10 reviews a month. In a years’ time you've got a 120 plus, which will be a fab number. But again, the key thing is spread them around a number of sites.

The plan is to do a periscope session like this every Friday.  Hopefully we can have a clean orange shirt each week.  Rich is actually going to be doing it next week, but we will do the same alert.  If you haven't seen the numbers, if you go to Conscious Solutions Blog we did a whole write-up of the first Periscope session we did a couple of weeks ago. And I know there have been a couple of law firms who have been doing them since, so if you want to get some experience of this, feel free to follow us or try it yourself. What can go wrong? Seagulls have not been dumping on me this afternoon, so that was the biggest worry about doing this outdoors.

So if you got any other questions, ask some now or not we are going to wrap up in the next minute was so. And I wish everybody a happy weekend.