April 15, 2010

An Introduction to the Better Business Bureau


Hostway Team

By Melissa J. Luther

The Better Business Bureau was founded in 1912 and is a corporation comprising more than 120 local BBB organizations in the U.S. and Canada. This network of BBBs provides unbiased information on businesses (reliability reports) and charities (BBB Wise Giving guides).

How the BBB works

The BBB doesn’t judge products and services or make recommendations. It provides impartial information about a company, including its history of complaints and its responsiveness to those complaints. This information helps consumers make their own judgments about the company.

Businesses applying for BBB accreditation must agree to adhere to the BBBs ethics standards, including honesty, integrity, privacy and advertising standards. The basic standards are set by the National Council of Better Business Bureaus, but local BBBs can place stricter standards on their members.

Any company or charity seeking accreditation must prove that it has all necessary state and federal licenses, supply references (customers, banks or other businesses), and supply employment and contact information for its principals. In addition, accredited companies pay annual dues, which vary according to the size and type of business.

The BBB forwards consumer complaints to the offending company, which has a certain amount of time to respond. If the company responds and the consumer is satisfied, the case is closed, and the complaint marked resolved. If the response is unsatisfactory or absent, the BBB may downgrade the company’s rating.

What the BBB Can Do

  • Collect and report information: The BBB can create a report on any business that comes to its attention, whether through an application for accreditation, a consumer complaint, or a request for a report.
  • Process complaints: The BBB accepts complaints, passes them on and attempts to bring the issue to a resolution.
  • Determine validity of a complaint: The BBB may choose not to forward a complaint if it determines it is unwarranted.
  • Determine fairness of response: Even if the consumer is unsatisfied, the BBB may determine that the business made a reasonable effort at resolution.
  • Mediate disputes: If the initial response is unsatisfactory, the BBB may offer mediation services.

These procedures are all voluntary. The BBB does not have any legal authority to force either party to participate in complaint resolution. Of course, businesses refusing to participate can be denied accreditation.

How BBB Accreditation Can Benefit a Business

  • Creates trust: The BBB logo has always implied trust, so a business displaying the logo may be seen as more trustworthy than one without it.
  • Shows you care: Maintaining BBB accreditation requires that you respond quickly and satisfactorily to complaints. This implies you care, and consumers like to do business with companies they feel care about them.
  • Enhances your reputation: BBB accreditation implies support for ethical business practices and provides extra credibility.

Consumers today have many options for judging businesses, and some prefer friends or review Web sites, so BBB accreditation will not be equally valuable to every business. For those whose target audience still trusts the BBB logo or report, though, accreditation could be a worthwhile investment.

About the Author

Melissa J. Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC, helps small businesses create and maintain a strong Internet presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an Internet presence that includes content creation, PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.

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