While popular online review platforms like Google and Yelp get most of the fanfare and attention from consumers, one of the oldest indicators for public trust is the Better Business Bureau. The BBB has operated in one form or another for over 100 years. Despite its age, the site still carries weight — especially with older customers — and tends to have a stickiness in search results, likely built off years of credibility.
Where simplicity is key for something like Google Reviews, BBB’s old-school style can make it a bit challenging to understand. Here is a quick and dirty guide to understanding the basics of BBB and how your business can leverage it to benefit online reputation management.
What Is the Better Business Bureau (BBB)?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is an independent ratings and review site that seeks to measure the trustworthiness and integrity of businesses. It is divided into several regional chapters, each overseeing businesses located in that region.
Each BBB business profile includes two primary metrics: a letter grade awarded by the BBB based on their assessment of overall reliability, and a star rating average of all customer reviews left on that particular BBB profile.
The BBB also awards select businesses with BBB accreditation, should they meet certain criteria. More on that below.
Due to the Better Business Bureau’s authoritativeness, extensive list of businesses, and strict ratings system, it is one of the most important online review platforms for businesses to manage properly.
Complaints (i.e. negative reviews) on BBB are damaging to businesses in two ways. Not only will they drag down the average star rating of your businesses, but as complaints add up and/or go unresolved for long periods of time, BBB will demote the letter grade rating of a business as well.
When a new customer complaint is submitted, BBB will direct the business to respond within 14 days. You may respond to the BBB regarding a complaint through an online complaint system, mail, fax, or email.
Working with the BBB to “close” a complaint (lessening the complaint’s damage to your business letter grade rating) can result in one of the following closing statuses:
- Resolved: The reviewer verified the issue was resolved to their satisfaction.
- Answered: The business addressed the issues within the complaint, but the consumer either a) did not accept the response or b) did not notify the BBB of their satisfaction.
- Unresolved: The business responded to the dispute but failed to make a good faith offer to resolve it.
- Unanswered: The business failed to respond to the dispute.
- Unpursuable: BBB is unable to locate the business.
When it comes to resolving or answering a complaint on BBB, Go Fish Digital recommends a few best practices:
- Respond in a timely manner, within 48 hours if possible, and no more than 14 days after the review is published.
- Address the reviewer personally, by name if possible.
- Acknowledge their specific complaint. Do not respond with a generic, scripted response.
- Thank them for their feedback, and apologize for the negative experience.
- Restate that the issue conflicts with your business’s core principles.
Utilizing Your Local BBB Chapter
One benefit to using the BBB is their business support. Unlike Yelp and Google, which can send you on a wild goose chase just to get a simple answer about removing a review or updating your profile, BBB’s regional setup can be an advantage when used properly.
Connecting our clients with their local BBB representatives has helped to resolve complaints, answer questions about accreditation, and remove business profile pages. The system isn’t perfect (a few BBB regional reps serving hundreds of businesses can result in some long delays in communication), but having a specific contact is a massive improvement compared to other platforms.
Use the BBB Directory to identify the proper BBB contact for your region, and get in touch with them to take advantage of their knowledge.
BBB Ratings: Star Ratings vs. Letter Grades
Something that can confuse consumers on BBB is the difference between a business’s star rating and letter grade rating. Sometimes, a business can boast a strong letter grade and weak star rating, or vice versa.
Remember, the BBB star rating is the average rating of all customer reviews left on that particular business profile page. The letter grade is an overall judgment of trust assigned by the BBB based on factors like complaint history, time in business, and any known legal issues. Here you can review the full list of BBB rating factors.
The BBB assigns a numerical value to each of their 10+ rating factors, which are weighted by importance, to obtain an overall point score between 0 and 100. A business that scores 94 and above on that scale achieves the coveted A to A+ grade. Businesses that fall short of 60 total points are given an F grade.
Pay special attention to the “Reasons for BBB Rating” linked below a business’s letter grade on the profile page. This provides specific information on rating penalties that can be useful for business owners and customers alike.
There is no subject related to BBB that prompts more questions than accreditation. Is accreditation a magic pill that resolves all BBB issues? Is it an overrated badge of honor? Is BBB accreditation expensive? These are all good questions.
First and foremost, BBB accreditation does not guarantee your business an A+ grade from the Better Business Bureau, nor does it protect you from negative customer reviews.
To become eligible for accreditation, businesses must meet the criteria in BBB’s Accreditation Standards. These businesses naturally tend to also have positive reviews and are in good standing with the BBB. However, just working with your local BBB chapter on becoming accreditation-eligible will also raise your BBB letter grade since so many of the best practices for a positive grade and accreditation overlap.
So how much does BBB accreditation cost? You will have to check with your local BBB chapter since pricing varies between regions, but pricing is based on the number of employees and usually ranges from about $500/year for the smallest companies and up to $1,500/year for companies with a few hundred employees. For larger corporations, yearly accreditation membership fees can be in the tens of thousands.
That begs the question, is BBB accreditation worth it? Primary benefits of accreditation include:
- Online and print assets confirming your badge of trust with the BBB
- Inclusion in BBB’s online directory when users search for “accredited only” businesses
- Access to exclusive business support services and tools
Ultimately, businesses must weigh the cost of an annual accreditation with the benefits the extra endorsement provides. In many cases, an “A” grade from the BBB and a positive average star rating from customers is enough to earn consumer trust.
For businesses with an older clientele or in a particularly competitive industry, accreditation may still be worth the yearly cost. Speak with your local BBB chapter about resolving any outstanding complaints associated with your business or to learn more about exact pricing.
With these tips at your disposal, BBB can turn from an often-ignored review site to one that attracts new customers and helps fortify your brand’s reputation.