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How To Grow Your Practice Using Negative Feedback

Many lawyers are afraid to ask clients for an honest assessment of their performance. This fear is probably ego-related ... the lawyer would be horrified if the client had anything but a wonderful experience. You could also be afraid that the client will have an epiphany about a negative part of the experience, which could lead to a refusal to pay, badmouthing behind your back, or a poor online review.

These are emotional fears, so they’re rarely rational. The fear is only rational if you ask for feedback and by asking the outcome will be worse than if you hadn't asked.

But that's not the case. Getting negative feedback is great.

Let’s say you get a truly awful review from a client. Wouldn’t you want to know now? Take advantage of the opportunity to address the issue with the client and prevent it from happening with future clients. The alternative is just letting it fester and having it possibly turn into a recurring issue.

Wouldn’t you rather make it right and avoid being reported to the disciplinary committee for an alleged infraction, or having someone bad-mouth you on Yelp?

Wouldn’t you prefer to convert someone who will drag your name through the mud to an advocate and a referrer of other clients?

The Benefits of Negative Feedback

Think of negative feedback as your early warning system. Negative feedback is sometimes about the outcome, but it often has more to do with your interactions with the client.

Maybe they expected more frequent interaction. Maybe you used too much legal jargon that went over the client’s head. Maybe a member of your office staff was always grumpy. Without asking, you’ll never know.

By asking, you can better understand your clients’ pain points, put an end to poor practices or service, set more accurate expectations and gain more referrals. Every complaint is an opportunity to improve.

Framing the Feedback Request

If you properly frame a request for feedback, you can dual-purpose it with a testimonial request. Give people the opportunity to share the negative and the positive. You can be proactive about addressing negative feedback and make that client feel better. At the same time, you can take positive feedback and turn it into a testimonial or marketing piece.

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You’re simultaneously gathering testimonials and finding and plugging holes in your practice.

The very fact that you’re asking clients for their opinion sends the message that you actually care about what they think. That’s flattering.

It also shows you’re trying to do the best job possible. If clients don’t fill out a survey form or provide any feedback, the perception of your practice will still be better than those that don’t even ask.

The Real Fear

Stepping on a landmine without being prepared for it is much more dangerous than receiving negative feedback. Think about the damage that could be done by a rude front desk employee - the first point of contact anyone has with your business. Don't take that lightly, a surly receptionist can cost you tens of thousands. No joke.

The longer you wait to find out about a negative situation, the less chance there is for you to solve the problem before it blows up in your face.

So now's the time. Get feedback. Use it. Profit.

Practice Alchemy Members: Use the client feedback template in the Member Training Portal to put in place a feedback system (which also gets testimonials) right away.

Raj Jha