A Data-Driven Yelp Study
Your online reputation is either one of your greatest assets or your greatest liabilities. Appearances drive our judgments and bad business practices are sure to send potential clients running towards competitors. Your review stars matter and the addition of just one star could earn your practice a 5 to 9% increase in revenue.
From obtaining referrals to building trust signals, client experience plays a huge role in building clientele. Helping our clients earn new clients is a big part of our job, which is why we decided to analyze the factors that drive individuals to either love or hate their attorneys. To do so, we examined the Yelp reviews of 60 randomly selected attorneys scattered across the U.S. The following insights are the result of dissecting over 400 client reviews.
The Metrics That Matter For Your Clients
In total, we analyzed 387 positive reviews and 102 negative reviews. For a majority of the attorneys sampled, the good reviews outweighed the bad. We started by compiling a count of the most popular adjectives used in positive and negative reviews.
|Top 10 Adjectives|
|The Good||The Bad|
As illustrated by the table above, an attorney’s demeanor, conduct, legal knowledge, communication skills, work ethic, and level of empathy are all important factors. Nevertheless, studying the use of adjectives does not yield a complete picture. There are concepts like offering reasonable fees or making the legal process easy that cannot be effectively communicated in just one word. Thus, after an adjective review, we started to dig for recurring concepts. The following table offers counts of some of the repeating concepts that we encountered.
|Displayed great communication skills||102|
|Good case results||68|
|Offered great service||26|
|High fees/only interested in money||25|
|Had good reviews||23|
|Had reasonable fees||23|
|Put client’s best interest first||15|
It goes without saying that good reviews typically stem from good case results, which is why 68 positive reviews mentioned receiving good results in some form. While you can’t always control the result of a case, you can control every other aspect of your relationship with the client. Thus, there are several actionable takeaways from our Yelp analysis.
Review Analysis Takeaways
1) Keep In Touch
Unresponsive ranked as the most common adjective in negative reviews, while responsive was the second most common adjective in positive reviews. Clearly, an attorney’s ability to respond to questions and inquiries in a timely manner is one of the most important metrics in separating the “good” attorneys from the “bad” ones.
When an individual obtains legal counsel, they expect to have their legal questions and concerns properly addressed. Therefore, one of the best things any attorney can do for their reputation is free up time for client communication. Allotting three time slots a day (beginning of the day, after/before/during lunch, and at the end of the day) to respond to emails and voicemails is more than sufficient. Getting in the habit of consistently checking lines of communication will not only make you more responsive, but also more accessible, which ranked as the 9th most popular adjective for positive reviews.
While responding to inquiries is a good start, proactive communication is essential for fostering positive experiences. Continuously update clients on the progress of their case and the next steps moving forward. Open and proactive communication will go a long way in establishing excellent rapport.
2) Empathy Is Everything
Clients were extremely appreciative when their attorneys were helpful, caring, patient, and compassionate. On the flip side, outrage transpired when lawyers appeared to be more interested in receiving their checks than settling a case in their client’s best interest. Unfortunately, attorneys rarely have the pleasure of dealing with individuals on their best days. Individuals seek legal aid in the midst of an unhappy marriage, a pile-up of debt, a threat of deportation, a contract disagreement, or a traumatic event.
In these situations the display of empathy can turn a decent client experience into an exceptional one. The most beneficial thing you can do during consultations is actively listen. Displaying your understanding of what a client is saying is the easiest way to show that you care. Patience is an essential virtue in consultations. Individuals don’t want to feel rushed through a consultation without having all of their concerns addressed. Anything you can do to ease the emotional burden surrounding a legal issue will help to tip the client experience in your favor.
3) Communicate The Value Of Your Service
Greedy placed as the third most popular adjective for negative reviews while 24% of all bad reviews mentioned high fees as a pain point. However, a client’s cynical perception of your fee structure does not necessarily mean your fees are too high. The old idiom, “You get what you pay for,” comes to mind. You might have extensive knowledge and experience that justifies a higher rate of pay. Yet, if your client does not see the value you are bringing to the table, your fees will be rendered unreasonable. The remedy for sticker shock is to effectively communicate why you deserve the rate you charge.
As previously mentioned, it’s good practice to send weekly or monthly (depending on the nature of the case) status update emails so the client understands what you’ve been doing and what you are going to do. It’s also worth integrating your value into your billing entries. Even if a client does not read your status emails, they are definitely reading their bills. Use words that convey action, results, and benefits. The goal is to project a sense of accomplishment in solving issues the client is facing. The more you provide and communicate value, the less likely you are to be slapped with a negative review for exorbitant billing.
4) A Good Reputation Matters
As noted in the concepts table, 23 reviews or roughly 5% of all of the reviewers analyzed mentioned choosing their attorney based on the glowing positive reviews residing on the attorney’s Yelp profile. While 5% may not seem significant, our analysis does not paint the full picture. In reality, the number of individuals who were persuaded to work with an attorney based on online reviews is much larger. Our analysis of existing Yelp reviews is not able to account for:
- Yelp reviewers who chose an attorney based on reviews, but did not mention that in their review.
- Individuals who chose an attorney based on reviews, but did not leave a review.
- Individuals who used a review platform other than Yelp to decide on an attorney.
General business marketing research has found that approximately 88% of all consumers incorporate online reviews into their purchase decisions. While not attorney specific data, it’s safe to speculate that the aforementioned estimate is not far off for consumers shopping for a local attorney. Regardless of the breakdown, your reputation is either gaining or losing you clients.
It’s essential that attorneys nurture their brand image by encouraging positive reviews and appropriately handling negative reviews. Proactively ask clients who’ve had good experiences with the firm to leave a review on one of your online profiles. Monitor mentions across all of your profiles once or twice a month; taking the time to respond to new negative and positive reviews. As evidenced by our Yelp analysis, consumers clearly value empathy and professionalism. Thus, the key to handling unfavorable reviews is to remain empathetic, professional, and sincere.
If maintaining a positive online reputation sounds like a time consuming task to you, you are right. Fostering great reviews extends beyond offering great service. Clients should be invited to write a review as cases close, but negative experiences should be handled outside of public review boards.