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05 Nov. 2021

Customer testimonials on regulated professions’ websites: go / no go ?

Customer testimonials on regulated professions’ websites: go / no go ?
  • Confidentiality
  • Ethics
  • Lawyers

Customer testimonials are a powerful B-to-C and B-to-B marketing tool, the use of which is highly regulated for regulated professions. Here's an overview of the possibilities.

Customer testimonials are a powerful B-to-C and B-to-B marketing tool, the use of which is highly regulated for regulated professions. Here’s an overview of the possibilities.

Lawyers can’t post customer reviews on their website, but there are other solutions…

The CNB’s Rules and Practices Commission issued a very clear opinion on the matter in 2015, which was reiterated in the Vademecum sur la Communication des Avocats:

« It can be very easy for anyone, including the lawyer, to pose as a client and file a comment, whether positive or not, moreover. In this context, the advertising would necessarily be disguised towards the potential client looking for a lawyer on the Internet. However, under the terms of article 10.2 of the RIN, all misleading or deceptive advertising, inevitably aggressive towards colleagues, is prohibited. By the same token, statements whose origin, veracity and objectivity cannot be guaranteed are contrary to the essential principles of the profession, notably honor, probity, delicacy, moderation, dignity and collegiality. The opinion of a customer, which by definition is based solely on a personal and subjective experience of “consumption”, does not meet this objective of informing the public. What’s more, by displaying only positive comments, the lawyer would not be guaranteeing a sincere and fair presentation of the nature of the services he offers. In any event, posting comments praising the lawyer or his firm constitutes a breach of the principles of delicacy, moderation, dignity and loyalty, it being observed that the lawyer is automatically responsible for the comments published (CNB, Comm. RU, opinion no. 2015-019 of May 18, 2015). » We regularly reiterate this point when creating a website, but the final choice is up to the customer…

Another way of displaying your customers’ reviews in compliance with the rules is to encourage them to leave their opinion on your Google My Business listing, i.e. the insert displayed on the right when your name is searched. It’s also a good idea to include business cases that anonymously illustrate situations you’ve handled for your customers.

Accountants can post personal notices

The accounting profession is one of the regulated professions where communication is freest. However, article 152 of the Code de Déontologie des Experts-Comptables stipulates that communications must be « decent and restrained, that their content contains no inaccuracies and is not likely to mislead the public, and that they are free of any comparative elements ». Chartered accountants can therefore publish notices by name.

DBF Audit, for example, has developed a page dedicated to customer reviews, with customer names, company logos and length of relationship. Christophe from Century 21 explains: « I get the service I expect. For me, it’s about getting advice whenever I need it, in addition to the traditional accounting mission. When we have several choices, our chartered accountant is always available to advise and support us. »

On the Wagner Associés website, we read: « Fortunately they were there, they were more than just accountants. They were an essential help to me. I particularly appreciate the availability and direct presence of the accountants on the premises. They are true allies who work for me and with me. And therein lies the major difference with other accountants I’ve worked with ».

Bailiffs may be able to post anonymous customer reviews on their website

According to article 10 of the national deontological regulations, « the site may not contain references to any named clients”, which in theory does not prevent the publication of anonymous reviews. The regulations also prohibit “laudatory mentions based on comparative emphasis ». Since notices may be included in this category, it is advisable to exercise caution and contact the Chambre des Commissaires de Justice for clarification.

Notaries can post anonymous customer reviews on their website

Article 4.4.1 of the Règlement National des Notaires states that « All advertising of a personal nature is forbidden to notaries, including on social networks ».

According to article 4.4.2, « Any notary’s office may have an Internet site provided it has obtained the Chamber’s approval, publishes the approval number on the site, respects the graphic charter and complies with ethical rules ».

There is nothing to prevent notaries from featuring on their website extracts from testimonials collected from them via a satisfaction questionnaire. For example, on the Adnot website, you can read the following :

« A top notary’s office in terms of responsiveness, efficiency, modernity and competence, where you feel well looked after. Thank you ! »

It is also possible to include a section in the presentation of the notary’s office on the website which could be entitled: “They trust us”, inserting only quotations with details of the type of customer (type of business, family…), without any names.

Choosing a notary is often a major choice for customers, whose reflex is to do an Internet search to consult their site and read what may be written about them or by them. Few notaries’ offices display this type of notice these days, and it’s all the more important to do so. A word of caution: check your Google Business page regularly, so you can react as quickly as possible if a negative review is published…

To find out more

How to use Google reviews to build your reputation, Wilo

Lawyer ratings: an overview and analysis, Village de la Justice