Ethics guidance

Engaging with online reviews

Issued on 2 October 2018

Status

This document does not form part of the SRA Handbook.

Who is this guidance for?

This information is for firms and solicitors we regulate.

Purpose of this guidance

This guidance explains how you can improve your business by engaging with online reviews and gives you practical tips to consider when doing so.

Section 1: Why is engaging with online reviews important?

Consumers now commonly use online reviews when buying services. Research suggests that over 50 per cent of UK adults read online reviews, especially for one - off purchases and more expensive goods and services.1 Legal services are often considered one off or expensive purchases. Research suggests that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 2

Consumers increasingly use online reviews to make comments, both positive and negative about the level of service they have received. Our research also shows that 42% of consumers consider reputation as the most important factor when choosing a service provider.3 And 66 per cent of respondents said that they considered more than one solicitor before instructing one.

Responding to online reviews is more important than ever; it can help you maintain, develop and protect your firm's reputation.

Your legal professional privilege/client confidentiality obligations should not prevent you responding to online reviews. It is okay to comment if you are not disclosing confidential or privileged information. If a client in a review does this, you can acknowledge the review and contact the client directly.

Section 2: Business case

Engaging with online reviews is good for your business, because it can help you:

Attract new clients
  • 45% of consumers are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
Improve client retention
  • 30% of larger firms and 13% of smaller firms check online reviews to monitor client satisfaction.
  • 80% of consumers believe that a business cares more about them when its management responds to their reviews
Improve service delivery
  • By helping you to better understand the needs of your clients and fit from an improved your reputation
Increase profitability
  • Good complaints handling can improve profitability by 2-3%

Section 3: Practical tips for engaging with online reviews

We have identified the following tips to help you engage with online reviews.

  • Respond quickly. Over 53 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within seven days.4
  • Think about future clients when writing your response. People thinking of instructing your firm are likely to be reading online reviews and your response to them. Each response is an opportunity for you to:
  • reinforce the fact that you deliver a high quality and personalised service
  • highlight the characteristics of your business that may not be fully disclosed on your website or evident at first sight for new customers
  • Include key words in your response. A well drafted response that includes key search terms (for example, types of service, location) also help you appear in more review searches.
  • Be authentic in your responses. Avoid using technical or complicated language. Think about the tone of your response. Consumers can recognise where a standard template is being used to respond. Showing that your firm has a human face is your responses is more likely to appeal to potential clients. Be aware when answering that you do not reveal information about your client.
  • Responding to online reviews does not require significant resources. Monitoring and responding to on line reviews may appear daunting if you do not have the expertise, time or resources. The amount of work involved is likely to reflect the number of transactions you carry out. It may be worth thinking whether the monitoring and responding to on line reviews can be included in an existing role or whether a small amount of time can be spent on a daily or weekly basis to check reviews

Engaging with positive reviews

  • Monitor and respond to positive reviews.
  • Thank your client for their feedback. This helps strengthen your relationship with your client. Customers who feel connected are more likely to stay with the brand in the future and twice as likely to recommend it.
  • Identifying positive reviews can also be used to help you enhance your reputation. For example, reviews and quotes can be used on your website and in email marketing. In doing this, solicitors and firms are reminded of their regulatory obligations to ensure any reviews used are accurate and not misleading, and is not likely to diminish the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal services

See below a real example where a law firm has put this into practice:

Review: "Excellent service, kept in contact at all stages. Would have no problem in using again and again. Would recommend". Fraser T

Response: "Dear Fraser. Many thanks for your kind and positive review. We are extremely please to hear you received excellent service."

Engaging with negative reviews

  • Do not be afraid of negative reviews. Consumers find it more authentic when they can see a company had made mistakes but made attempts to address them. Customers spend more than five times as long on site when they interact with bad reviews, trust the reviews they see far more and convert nearly 85 per cent more often.5
  • Never leave a bad review unanswered. Responding to a negative review is your opportunity to clarify, correct and learn more about how consumers perceive the service you deliver. Acknowledging and thanking a client for raising their concern and setting out how you will address the issue reassures existing and future clients that you value their experience seriously.

"At RMNJ we believe it is important to engage with online reviews especially if the content is negative. Leaving a negative review without a response gives the impression that your firm does not care about the concerns raised by the reviewer. Engaging in a reply provides an opportunity and forum to talk positively about the services you provide." Gareth Brooks, Partner, RMNJ Solicitors.

  • You do not have to respond to complicated or difficult reviews online. Where a complicated or difficult review has been made, it may not be possible to respond without going into significant detail. In this case, responding simply to the review, such as apologising for the dissatisfaction and setting out a route as how to how the issue can be resolved will create a positive impression of your firm.
  • Avoid getting personal or defensive in your responses. Telling a client publicly that they are wrong or dismissing their concern signals to existing and future clients that you are not client focused. A better option is to show that you understand their concerns and working to resolve their problem.

See below real examples where law firms have put this into practice:

Review: "The company has gone downhill, the service is not the same and the solicitors and staff just tell lies. I would not recommend this firm. Ramesh"

Response: "Thank you for your feedback Ramesh. It's really helpful for us to receive feedback so we can address any negative aspects and improve our service.

"So we can investigate this matter further, please can you email us with the specific details. Many thanks."

Review: "Not the easiest to get hold of you if you want to discuss anything, but everything gets down by the right time in the end – which is ultimately what counts. If you want a really personal touch and a solicitor to hold your hand, this company probably isn't for you. But if you just want a no-fuss service and are happy for them to get on with it with little interaction, then its good value" Michelle B

Response: "Thankyou Michelle. Customer service and satisfaction are important to us, and recently we have increased our staffing complement and training to address this issue you identify."

Engaging with fake reviews

It is unlikely that you will receive a fake review. There is wider advice available on this subject, but you may want to consider:

  • Making sure the review is fake before claiming that it is. Try to establish authenticity of the response before deciding your next steps. If the review has been posted on a review platform, work with them to establish authenticity.
  • Do not ignore it. Respond with a polite or neutral response, for example, 'we have not been able to verify this review is from a genuine client' or similar to flag up the possibility of a fake review,
  • Report or flag the review if it is on a third-party platform, for example, a comparison site and ask them to remove it. This is not the same as asking for negative reviews to be removed.

See below a real example where a law firm has put this into practice:

Review: "One of the worst and most stressful experiences of my life. They are not professional or clear spoken. Seem to play delaying tactics as if they wanted the seller to pull out. As we are cash buyers we had hoped everything would go smoothly, instead it was hell. Save your time and money and go elsewhere" James S.

Response: "Thank you for your comments and bringing this to our attention. From the details provided we are unable to identify your case or look into this further.

"In order that we can investigate this further, please could you email us at customerexprerience@example.co.uk with further details included your customer reference number and the address of the property in question. With kind regards."

  1. 1. Competition and Market Authority, Online search: Consumer and firm behaviour: A review of existing literature, April 2017
  2. 2. Bright Local, Local Consumer Review Survey, 2017
  3. 3. Economic Insight, PRICE TRANSPARENCY IN THE CONVEYANCING MARKET: A report for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, October 2017
  4. 4. https://www.reviewtrackers.com/online-reviews-survey/ 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey: Statistics and Trends
  5. 5. https://blog.reevoo.com/ebook-bad-reviews-good-business/
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