Responding to Negative Reviews – A Tactical How-To

February 27th, 2019 by Rachel Reynolds   |   Posted in SEM / SEO / PPC, Web Marketing

Ouch!  It really stings when someone writes a negative review on social media about your firm.  As you begin to read, your eyes get big and you start to hyperventilate and …  what you do next will define the experience.

Rather than stressing out and being filled with apprehension, let’s take a brief time out and think this over.  Remember that old adage about life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond?  Yep, same is true here.

You can lose sleep, be filled with mounting anxiety and panic … or you can dazzle your readers and followers with compassion and aplomb.

Nobody likes being raked over the digital coals especially if the comments are unfair or, worse yet, if they are posted by someone you’ve never interacted with.  You couldn’t have wronged them, you’ve never met them!  Ah well, at this very moment none of that matters.  What matters is how you respond right now.

Thank the Person for Sharing

Always begin by replying to the comment immediately and by thanking the person (really?) for their feedback.  This establishes that you are professional, confident and generous.  Next, if they have provided their name, be sure to address them directly in your response by using their name.  For example,

Thank you, Jane, for taking the time to share your perspective ….”

 There’s nothing that defuses a situation like being treated respectfully and politely.

Now, as for the comment itself, a few things can be true: it is a client of yours who is unhappy with a situation, it’s a competitor raining on your parade, or it was mistakenly posted by an unknown person who is disgruntled with some other attorney or baker or veterinarian and the comment inadvertently wound up on your site.

Validate the Relationship

If you recognize the name of a client or former client, then validate the relationship and state that you regret they are dissatisfied.  For example,

“We felt honored, Jane, to work on your personal injury case and we regret any disappointment you may feel.  Client satisfaction is paramount to us. Our firm takes pride in providing clients the best possible service.”

Invite Dialogue Offline

Then invite the person into a dialogue offline and reassure them that they are important and you want to hear their concerns.  For example,

“I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you by phone and iron out any concerns you may have.  Please feel free to call our office or email your phone number to us and we will call you.  We’d love to talk.”

Was the Review a Mistake?

If you do not recognize the name and a quick review of your client files shows that the commenter is someone you’ve never heard of, then politely suggest that there’s been a mistake.  For example,

“I appreciate your concern, Joe. After a quick review of our files, I see that we don’t have record of serving you as a client. It seems there’s been some confusion. But we’d be happy to speak to you if you’d like us to give you a call.”

No matter what, do not get into an argument or mud-slinging match online.  Do not sound defensive.  Do not be aggressive.  Do not restate (and thereby prolong and perpetuate) the problematic issue.  Do not lose your cool.  All of this reflects poorly on you digitally.

Diffuse the comment online with politeness.  Lay it to rest promptly and professionally.  If you feel determined to try to get a negative or inaccurate review deleted, here are the steps to take for several platforms.  Keep in mind, though, that it’s very rare that these sites will remove negative reviews.  It has to be a flagrant violation of site policies to do so.

FacebookHow to report a faulty review/recommendation

AvvoHow to dispute a review

YelpReporting a misleading or fake review

Google – Policies for removing negative reviews: Flag inappropriate reviews, Prohibited and restricted content

Again, you or your Project Manager can follow the steps outlined by each social media platform to lodge your complaint, but don’t get your hopes up if all you are contesting is that a client didn’t like your service and said so.

The Best Strategy: Get Good Reviews. A Lot of Them.


So, what next? The key is to proactively prepare for a negative comment before it happens! Just know that if you’ve been in business long enough, even if you’re the greatest attorney that ever lived there’s probably going to come a time when someone, somewhere posts something negative. It’s the world we live in. So it’s best to be prepared.

As they say in sports, anticipate your opponent. What that means here is the more positive reviews and testimonials people write about you, the less a single negative comment matters. Not only is that true in the minds of readers, but it’s also true in numeric review scores. One negative comment matters on social media when there are only three reviews of your firm – it pulls your overall favorable score down. But one negative review barely moves the needle when there are 60 reviews.

Think of it this way. Remember when your mom made a pitcher of Kool-Aid when you were a kid? If you dump a packet of cherry Kool-Aid into 10 ounces of water, it would be really red! But if you dump a packet of cherry Kool-Aid into 3 gallons of water, it just turns a pale, watery pink. Why? Because its DILUTED.

The same is true of negative reviews.

The Importance of Having a Plan

Now, here’s where the real work begins.  The truth is that it’s very difficult to get a review removed from Google, Facebook, Yelp and Avvo.  Under some very specific circumstances (like comments that include lewdness, obscenities or threats of violence), there is a step-by-step process in which you can file a complaint, and it’s probably best to contact your Gladiator Project Manager so this person can file the complaint on your behalf.

Keep in mind, though, that unless the circumstances are extreme, getting a comment removed is notoriously difficult.  The best thing you can do is create a social media plan in advance so you’re not caught flat footed by a negative review.

The Diminishing Power of a Negative Review

A negative review, with only a few positive reviews to offset it, will not only hurt your brand, but it will also reduce your leads.

Imagine seeing the stars rating in Google for your firm vs. your competitors.  You have 4 reviews — 3 are 5 stars, one is 1 star. Your average score is 4.0.

Your two main competitors have a total of 12 and 25 reviews respectively. Perhaps they, like you, each have a 1-star negative review, but all the others are 5 stars. Their respective average scores are 4.7 and 4.8.  The math is simple.

What’s more, when a potential client sees that your competitors have so many reviews and your firm has only 4, they may conclude that few clients choose your firm.  Or worse yet, they may think that the clients you do have don’t feel like your service is valuable enough to take time to leave a positive review.

Be Proactive.  Ask Clients to Write Reviews.

So this means you must be proactive and intentional about getting positive reviews online.  Nobody can do it for you because nobody knows your clients like you do.  If you’ve won a large settlement or have a particularly positive client experience, ask the client to spend 3 minutes writing a review online.  In your last meeting with a client, tell them that you’ll be sending them a review reminder and encourage them to write one.  Tell them how important it is to you.

In one of your news emails to clients, you can offer clients the chance to post a review and provide a link where they can do so.  As an attorney, you are not allowed to actively solicit positive reviews, but you can remind clients that posting a review is an option and make it easy for them to do so.  You can speak to your SEO provider or Project Manager to get help with encouraging clients to write reviews.  At Gladiator Law Marketing, we have a tool that sends requests for reviews to your client for you.  All we need is an email address.

Pay Attention and Watch Your Reviews Grow

Remember to think of your firm’s web presence as a living, breathing thing that needs to be tended regularly.  It’s like a garden that must be cultivated.  If you don’t check it regularly and provide sustenance, lots of weeds can grow.  Tend to your brand like a garden and it will grow.  It sounds easy – and in many ways, it is – but it takes consistency and it has to be a priority.  If you do this, you will be very happy with the return on your investment.