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Wedding Business Solutions Podcast with Alan Berg CSP - How Do You Reply to Negative Reviews?How Do You Reply to Negative Reviews?

If there’s one thing that gets wedding and event pros riled up it’s getting a less-than-positive review, especially your first one. I get frantic phone calls, emails and messages looking for help and guidance when that happens. Besides slowing down and taking a deep breath, there really is a better way to handle these situations. Take a deep breath and listen to this 19-minute episode and find out.

If you have any questions about anything in this, or any of my podcasts, or have a suggestion for a topic or guest, please reach out directly to me at [email protected] or visit my website

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Below is a full transcript. If you have any questions about anything in this, or any of my podcasts, or have a suggestion for a topic or guest, please reach out directly to me at [email protected] or contact me via textuse the short form on this page, or call 732.422.6362

Please be sure to subscribe to this podcast and leave a review (thanks, it really does make a difference). If you want to get notifications of new episodes and upcoming workshops and webinars, you can sign up at


– Negative reviews, they give you agita, they keep you up at night, how do you handle them? Listen to this episode and find out. Welcome to another episode of the Wedding Business Solutions Podcast. For this episode I want to tackle something that pops up every once in a while, kinda like whack-a-mole with my clients where every once in a while somebody will pop up and just be hair on fire about a negative review that they got. And sometimes they’re not even that negative, they’re just not five-star positive. And listen we have control over it, sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. Some of this is related to COVID, So, I know I had people that have never gotten a negative review before and then all of a sudden with COVID they did.

So, I just wanted to do a real short episode just to talk about what do you do when you get a negative review? Now, let me say in the beginning, I am not an attorney, if there’s anything involved here that you should be talking to an attorney about, that’s a good time to talk to them, I am not an attorney, this is just me throwing out some things that I’ve learned from working with wedding and event pros around the country and around the world. So, first of all let’s define what a negative review is. If you get a four star review, is that a negative review? Not necessarily. Some people just won’t give you five stars. I have my books up on Amazon and one of my books has all five star reviews, one four star, one three star, and one one star. When you click to see the three-star, you can’t even see it and this is a little quirk of these platforms, Yelp does the same thing. Somebody rated you but they’re not going to show you that, maybe they’re not a known commodity.

So, let’s say on Amazon, if you didn’t buy the book on Amazon they’ll let you review it and rate it but it doesn’t show, it’s really weird, it doesn’t show up, Yelp has some of the same things. Somebody has never posted on Yelp before they go and post you a five-star glowing review and it doesn’t show, it hides it because that’s the first time they’ve ever posted on Yelp. Whereas me, I’m a Yelp Elite which means I have over a hundred reviews on Yelp, So, anything I post will go up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 stars, anything because they know me, I’m a known commodity there, a known quantity there. My one star shows up on Amazon and it is a rant, it is a rant that I’m going to get into that in a second and then the fives are there, but I have a four that’s basically said best book ever, best book I’ve ever read, four stars. That’s not a negative review, as a matter of fact that legitimized every five star I’ve ever gotten and it really doesn’t bring my rating down. If you look at the stars on Amazon you can’t tell that it’s not quite full five star there because it looks the same, that’s the way they do it, they don’t actually put a number, they have the stars and you can see how full they are. Let me talk about the one for a second. That one legitimized everything that every other great review I’ve ever gotten because that shows that they will allow these negative comments.

Now here’s the thing, many of us will look at negative reviews when we’re looking to buy a product or hire someone for a service, we want to see what were people not happy with. It could be a restaurant, could be a product that you’re looking to buy, that reviews are everywhere. According to WeddingWire and The Knot, over 90% of couples are going to read reviews before they reach out to you. I remember when my wife and I, we had moved to New Jersey 10 years ago and we saw a really nice restaurant, we kept passing it and we said, “You know what, let’s go there for our anniversary.” It was clearly a higher end, more expensive type restaurant, I said, “Let’s pick a nice occasion and go.” So, before we went I was like, “I wonder what they’re known for, I wonder what dishes they’re known for.” So, we went and we’re looking at reviews and I’m reading this one review, it was a very long review and I was like, “I wonder what she liked.” And this person, this woman wrote this review and what was really interesting, it was a rave and then there was a but, but. And here’s what she said, “But you would think that a restaurant of this caliber would know the difference between a demitasse spoon and a salt spoon.” And I looked at it and I read it again and again, and then I looked at my wife and I said, “Hey, come read this.” And I said, “This woman is upset because they don’t know the difference between a demitasse spoon and a salt spoon.” I said, “Do you know the difference between a demitasse spoon and a salt spoon?” And she said, “No, I don’t either.”

We had to google it to find out what the difference was. And we didn’t know why this was even important until we got to the restaurant and saw that the way they do the salt everything is about the presentation. The salt was this crystallized salt on a special little tray And you’re supposed to then scoop that up and put that on whatever you want. So, the woman asked for a salt spoon and they brought her apparently a demi tasse spoon. Now she didn’t not give them five stars, but she had to mention that. You know those reviews you get where somebody says everything was great but, right, but, and then there’s something else in there. Is that a negative review? You know what, it really depends because it’s in the eyes of the beholder. If somebody is reading a review, I remember reading another review of a place and somebody hated the particular dish of this restaurant. And I didn’t like that kind of food at all anyway, so, it didn’t matter to me that that person didn’t like their, whatever their clams let’s say and I don’t eat clams So, it doesn’t matter to me, but did they like other stuff?

I remember looking for tires one time for my wife’s car and at the time she had a Toyota Prius. It’s a small car and somebody posted a negative review and they had, it tells you what kind of car they had, they had a Mustang, a 5.0 liter V eight Mustang and they said these tires were terrible. But somebody else who had a Toyota Corolla, another small car said they loved the tires. Well, I’m not going to give credence to that Mustang person because they just bought the wrong tires, they probably should’ve read reviews before they bought the tires. So, again, what is a negative review? That was clearly a negative review but it’s also, a reflection that they probably bought the wrong tires in the first place for their car, but somebody who had a more similar car that was more significant to us.

So, first thing is just because you get a negative review doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, it is not the end of the world because you get a negative review, it legitimizes every other review you have. It’s really important what they wrote because not all negative reviews are created equally. I actually have told many, many people in the wedding and event industry, I hope that if you ever get a negative review, I hope you don’t get one and you might get some less than five, that doesn’t mean they’re negative. I hope that if you get a negative review that they go just off the deep end, ranting it and just carrying on because it’s less credible, it’s less believable that it relates to the other person who’s reading it when somebody goes wacko on you with a review. And that’s kind of like the one star I have on my book, “Shut up and Sell More Weddings and Events.” It’s six, seven paragraphs and they’re just carrying on carrying on, they clearly read the book but they also, were not looking for any new ideas.

You could tell from what they wrote that they were looking for validation that what they already do is the right thing and they didn’t believe that my ideas could have any credence. Well, there’s 50 something reviews that say it helps. So, you look at the balance and you go, you know what, you can’t please everybody, that’s okay. Am I going to not buy this book because of this one review when there’s 50 something that say, “I love this book, best thing ever?” So, a lot of what I tell people is they come to me because they’re looking for the non-emotional, the “I’m not in this day to day not committed because it’s my business”, opinion on what I should do right now. And the best thing always is to take a deep breath, maybe take a walk around the block, step back, do not, do not respond when you are upset because you will write something you shouldn’t and on a lot of these sites you can’t take it back, right?

If you are allowed to reply to reviews which not all sites allow you to do but most of them do, you should be replying to your good reviews because it could make a bad review less likely. Now, when I say respond to a good reviews, somebody gave you five stars, say thank you but don’t just copy paste, thank you very much, we enjoy doing your wedding, you want to say something more personal. So, if they didn’t mention who they married, you have their name, now you can mention who they married’s name and now, oh, I know that person, right? The people reading it know that you know your customers. If they mentioned something specific, mention that something specific So, that people know you’re responding personally to them. I’ve posted a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor because I travel a lot and I love when people respond to reviews. I hate it when it’s this generic copy pasted, “Dear Mr. Berg, thank you So, much for coming to our property or eating at our restaurant, we look forward to inviting you back.” Clearly you respond to everybody that way, you didn’t take any time to respond personally to me. So, if you respond to the good reviews, it allows you to show your personality because people buy from people, not from companies and it will make the bad review a little less likely.

I’ve run this by some people that have sites like WeddingWire and The Knot that have a lot of reviews, millions of reviews and it can make it a little less likely to get the bad review because they know you’re going to respond. If you’ve never gotten a negative review and you’ve never responded to the good one, they don’t know if you’re even paying attention. By responding to the good reviews you’re showing that you’re paying attention. You get this review, it’s less than positive, the first thing is what are they complaining about? There’s a difference between somebody complaining because they had to change their wedding date again and again and again because they’re like, “I live in New Jersey,” weddings didn’t open for a long time or they were at 10 people, then at 25 people, now we’re finally up to 250 people, but it’s 250 no matter what the capacity of the room is and it’s at 50% capacity, so, you have to have a really big room and all this kind of stuff. So, it depends on where you are, but if somebody is upset at that, somebody else who’s not affected by that may not care as much. This is a different time, right? The COVID related ones are different than somebody who says “You didn’t do what I wanted you to do.” “You didn’t do what we contracted you to do.” Or, “We didn’t like the way you did such and such, or these are the things that we’re upset about.” There’s a difference between I had to move my wedding three times because of COVID and that.

We’re going to get past this, I want to say this now, if you’re listening to this at the tail end of COVID, hopefully the tail end of COVID or if you’re listening to this a year later. A year later people aren’t worried about that anymore, it’s not going to affect them, they’re not concerned, again just like I’m not concerned if somebody likes the clams in a restaurant because I’m never going to eat them. It doesn’t matter, I’m not going to eat them, I don’t really care. So, it has to be things that relate to the person that’s reading it, whether or not they’re going to care about that particular thing.

Responding to reviews personalizes it and shows that you’re involved. Now, what I don’t want you to do is get into a, he said, he said, he said, she said, she said, he said, she said, she said, I don’t want you to get into a, pardon me, a pissing match with somebody in writing that is there forever for everyone to see. It’s going to make you look bad and you’re going to lose customers because of it. You will not necessarily lose customers because of a negative review or even a bunch of negative reviews if they are balanced by So, many more positive reviews. Again, a 4.9 is in some ways better than a 5.0 because somebody didn’t give you exactly perfect but you’re still way up at the top, 4.8, 4.9, it’s better than 5.0 in many reasons because some people look at only fives and go, “Really, really.”

So, whenever somebody gets a bad review and their hair goes on fire and they contact me, the first thing I say is, “Hey, take a deep breath, send me a link to the review, let me read it. Okay. And do not respond.” I say, do not respond. I’d go and I take a look at the review. Now I’m reading this as I was not involved in it, I’m reading this So, I’m getting only the one side. I’m reading that and I look through it and then I call back the person and I say, “Okay, how much of this is true?” Now I get a few different answers, I get, “None of that, we didn’t even do their event, they’re confusing us with somebody else.” That’s one bucket and that can happen. Then another bucket is “Well it…” and so, when somebody says to me, “Well,” I mean, some of what they said was true and if some of what they said was true, now it’s just your meter of how strongly this should be affecting them versus their meter of how strongly they feel it should be affecting them.

If there is some of what they said or in sometimes all of what they say is true, that’s a very different thing to answer then none of it’s true because it wasn’t even our business. So, if it’s not even your business and you’ve contacted the platform and whatever reason you can’t convince them to take it down because Yelp can be like that or even TripAdvisor sometimes. Your response would be, “Thank you for reading our response here, we’re sure that this customer has confused us with someone else maybe with a similar name, but on this date we did a wedding and it was not for this couple.” Right? And that’s it, you can just leave it like that. If it’s a, “Well,” now I want to know, have you tried to contact the customer? Have you tried to take this offline and contact the customer and come up with a solution that will make them happy? Right? And part of that solution could be them taking their review down if you are making them happy and making them happy may involve you doing a refund, partial or full or not, some people just want to be validated.

I found this in all of my career that when someone is upset the one thing that they want most is to be heard. They want to be heard, they want to know that somebody is listening to them. Sometimes they don’t want any kind of make good, they just want to know that you have heard that this is the issue. I know I’ve done hotel sometimes or restaurants, I’ve said something to a manager about something that they ought to know, I wasn’t looking for anything. And you can tell by their reaction sometimes there, thank you So, much, thank you for letting us know. We appreciate that, we’re going to address that. And other times you can tell they are going through the motions at best and nothing’s going to happen.

I know with all the mask mandates and stuff, I was in a Walmart during the height of all of this and I noticed that half the employees had their masks below their noses. That does not protect anybody here and we were required to wear a mask, the sign set outside over your nose and mouth. I went to go talk to a manager, the manager turns around and he’s wearing it on his chin. He’s like, well, he’s not going to do anything about this, there’s no point in talking to him about this because he’s clearly not going to do anything. So, if you get a bad review and you have tried to contact the customer and you can’t contact the customer, you don’t want to get into pointing out how the customer is wrong, because remember who you’re really writing this for, many platforms don’t even notify the person who reviewed that they got a response. TripAdvisor does, I can tell you that because I’ve seen that I get those notifications, but The Knot, WeddingWire, they don’t, I don’t know that Facebook does, maybe they do, maybe not. Google, I’m not sure if they do either.

They may not ever know the person who posted the review that you have responded, they may not. So, you’re responding to the people reading it who are deciding whether or not to reach out to you to do business with you. Remember that, that’s what you’re deciding, that’s who you’re responding to over here. So, if there is something very, very specific that you can point out, right, that they person didn’t say, you might make it as a matter of fact, but you want to make it part of your response, you don’t want to make it that they’re wrong because when customers see that you’re trying to make other customers seem like they were wrong they’re not going to want to do business with you.

The best way to respond to most negative reviews, I mean a negative review, I don’t mean they gave you a 4.5 and you’re just not happy that they didn’t give you five, a negative review, truly negative review is something like this. “Thank you for taking the time to read our response. As you can imagine there is always more than one side to every story, all we ask is that you look at all of the wonderful five-star reviews that we have here to give you a full picture of what we can do for you and your wedding or event. We look forward to the opportunity. Thank you.” And then put the mouse down and walk away. That’s it. That’s the way you respond to a truly negative review, you don’t get into the weeds with them. Let me say that again. “Thank you for taking the time to read our response. As you can imagine there’s always more than one side to every story, all we ask is that you take a look at all of the wonderful five-star reviews here to get a full picture of what we can do for you, for your wedding or event. We look forward to the opportunity. Thank you.” And that’s it.

And remember this, if you’re ever having a bad day read your great reviews to show what you do for people and how much they love it. Right? So, go after your post, if you respond to this negative, you go read some five star reviews of recent couples and go, you know what, that’s what people really think about us. Some people are just, you can’t please them, some customers you took that you shouldn’t have taken, right? Some of that self-inflicted as well, but that’s the way you respond to it. And the last thing I want to say on this is, you can’t help how things make you feel, a negative review is going to hurt, it’s going to sting, you control how long you feel that way.

When I saw my one star review, I was like, “What?” Right, and I went and read it and I was like, “Huh, actually read the book.” And then I read it again, I was like, “Okay, I see what they’re going here,” I get a feel for this and then I said, I wasn’t allowed to respond, Amazon does let you respond. I left it alone and I looked at some of the other reviews and I said, “Well, clearly people really like this book, this person doesn’t, I’m sorry.” Had they bought it on my website, on my shop and come to me and said they hated it, I would’ve given her a refund, but it was on Amazon So, I didn’t have any control over that. But negative reviews are not the end of the world. If you’re getting a lot of negative reviews that’s market research and people are clearly upset about things. Again, COVID is a sidebar on this, but if there are certain things people are always complaining about that’s market research for you. So, that’s how you respond to a negative review. I hope you never get one, but I hope you keep this in your back pocket. If you or a friend does and you can share it with them, thanks So, much for tuning in.

I’m Alan Berg. Thanks for listening. If you have any questions about this or if you’d like to suggest other topics for “The Wedding Business Solutions Podcast” please let me know. My email is [email protected]. Look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Thanks.

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