How the Better Business Bureau is becoming irrelevant thanks to modern social media.

Posted Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Does anyone in 2013 use the BBB to gauge a business prior to utilizing their services?

What about BBB accreditation? I want to work with a BBB accredited business.

BBB accreditation requires the business pay the BBB. BBB accreditation does not imply that the BBB investigates to see if the business acts ethically, or is competent at their given craft. It merely means they pay a fee. This much is mentioned on their own website.
On a public review site, a business becomes accredited by being accountable to the community. On, a business becomes accredited by paying an annual fee. Which do you trust more?

Misconceptions about the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB is a private organization – not a law enforcement body. The BBB gives businesses ratings based on consumer complaints, and replies to consumer complaints. However, the BBB has no standing to fine, punish, or derail a business’ existence or operation.

When you send a complaint to the BBB, it is then forwarded to the company the complaint is against. The company is asked to reply. The company can say anything they like – “This is our policy, here is why we cannot help you according to our policy. We consider this matter closed at this time.” That’s it. The BBB cannot, nor do they, attempt to mandate a business to change a policy decision. The BBB acts as a middleman messenger service and nothing more.

That’s wrong. My friend filed a complaint on a business, they had many other complaints, and they were shut down!

Again, the BBB has no standing to shut down a business. Rather, it is more likely that the business was receiving many complaints because they were under-serving their customers. As a result of under-serving their customers, the business lost its customers who went elsewhere, leading them to close. Or, whatever internal problems(personnel, funding) were causing the business to under-serve its customers caused them to go under.

So what DO they do?

As stated before, the BBB simply exists to allow customers to post complaints, and then resolve them through back and forth conversation. Ratings are given to the business based on a business’ responses & the customer satisfaction with the responses.

That sounds like a noble cause. Why would you say they are becoming irrelevant?

I’m so glad you asked! Several reasons.

Firstly, the BBB only exists for the negative. You can check on their site for complaints. It is a one sided site – there is no ratio!! You need to be able to see positives and negatives to get an idea of how the business operates. The BBB shows the negative only – without seeing the positive along with the negative, there is no way to judge the ratio of happy to pissed off consumers.

For example, one business sells 100,000 items a day, and has 5 people per day file a complaint. Another business sells 40 items a day, and has 1 person per day file a complaint. The busines selling 100 items per day has less complaints, but has a higher percentage of unsatisfied customers. However, looking at the BBB site, the business selling less seems more legitimate – because you cannot gauge the ratio of complaints to happy customers. If you check a Yelp page and see they have 50 5 star reviews and 3 1 star reviews, this looks better than a business with a single 1 star review and a single 5 star review. However, on the BBB site, the latter business would look better.

Secondly, the interface and theme have not kept up with technology. Compare usability to Google Places & Yelp. Or citysearch. Or even resellerratings – they all are put together much better, and make it easier for a consumer to find the information they need on a particular business. Google & Yelp have android & iPhone apps that make it easy to find a business and look up their credibility instantly by location. These sites post deals, descriptions, lead you to business websites. Does the BBB do this?

So you’re saying less people use the BBB?

Yes. We polled 100 customers over a 6 month timeframe. Of these 100 customers, 70 had looked us up on Yelp, 10 had word of mouth referrals without even looking us up, 7 had found our Google places page(3 of these 7 had looked at yelp as well), 14 people who walked in didn’t look us up and were just passing by, and 2 looked us up on the BBB(where we are nowhere to be found). Those 2 who looked us up on the BBB were both over 45 years of age.

Less people do use the BBB, and from our crude “survey”, those who do are not from the younger generation.