Embracing online reviews can trigger a positive, service-driven culture change at law firms, the practice director of a leading West Country firm told last week’s Legal Futures webinar.
Clive Meredith of Wollens urged law firms to address online reviews but said they had to go into it with their eyes open.
Speaking on our webinar, Online reviews: Happy clients or keyboard warriors, he said: “You are going to get occasional bad reviews… Sometimes they’re justified, sometimes they’re not. There is a tendency in legal that if everything isn’t perfect, we shouldn’t try it. That doesn’t work with client reviews.”
He said Wollens – a high street practice with 150 staff over three sites – signed up to ReviewSolicitors when it was seeing more reviews appear online and fewer new clients simply walking through the door.
“It’s really changed the culture of the firm into being far more service driven, and not just legal driven,” he told the webinar.
Mr Meredith was formerly in the hotel industry, where, he said, the customer was always right even when they were wrong. “Bringing that service feel into a law firm hasn’t been easy at times, but this has been the one thing that has changed the culture.”
Whereas previously many fee-earners only received feedback from clients when something had gone wrong, now they were able to celebrate positive reviews too.
With ReviewSolicitors, each lawyer also has their own star rating and Mr Meredith said “the lawyers love it – it breeds healthy competition… and cultivates good behaviours”.
The system also helps Wollens judge clients’ views on value for money and appropriate fee levels.
It was important, he added, to reach a critical mass of reviews, at which point “it really adds credibility to the business” – and it also mitigated the impact of the small number of negative reviews.
He said smaller firms without the in-house resource to manage reviews could outsource it to a digital agency.
Amy Thomas, head of client development at national giant Irwin Mitchell, said negative reviews were almost more important than positive ones, as it helped the firm understand how to improve the customer experience.
She added: “We’ve worked hard to create a bit of a culture where feedback isn’t about an individual’s performance.”
The feedback is instead fed into possible training needs or operational changes.
She noted that, “more often than not”, clients who have had their concerns addressed would update their review to report a position outcome.
Sometimes reviews were “unjustified” and she said “you have to work with the platform providers” – although delegates heard during the webinar how hard that was with Google in particular. Irwin Mitchell focuses on TrustPilot and Ms Thomas said the company has always responded “brilliantly” when this has happened.
Helen Lobozzo, head of client care at fast-growing national firm Taylor Rose MW, said it was important with negative feedback not to become “embroiled in an argument on the platform” – firms should take the discussion offline.
Reviews helped drive improvements at the firm, which also runs an incentive programme for staff to help them “celebrate the good feedback they get”.
Ms Lobozzo continued: “Off the back of that, we’ve found that staff have encouraged and embraced the reviews.
“When there’s lots of good feedback, it’s much easier to tackle the one or two negative comments we receive.”
A recording of the full 90-minute webinar, which covered all aspects of online reviews, can be purchased for just £35. Email firstname.lastname@example.org