Any company dependent on the good will of consumers is sensitive to their Better Business Bureau rating. A high BBB rating means more customers or clients; a low rating can spell disaster. But what do you do if, for some reason, your company’s rating has been downgraded and you have no idea why?
The consequences for your company can be devastating. Crafting a resolution can be frustrating, especially if you do not know how the BBB is organized, the importance of integrating a response process to BBB complaints, and the best way to approach them about a negative rating.
The purpose of this article is to highlight these areas and point you to the information that will provide a structure and basis for maintaining or improving your company’s BBB rating. Based on our experience of guiding several companies through the ratings process, we have gained valuable insight into how the BBB arrives at its ratings, and what information to provide to them (in a non-confrontational way) to improve a negative rating.
Useful Information about the BBB
The BBB is a private company not subject to governmental or industry regulations. If you find yourself in a disagreement with the rating they have given your company, it is best to approach them using their standards of integrity and fairness to state your position.
The mission statement for the BBB is: “to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust.” It is supported by funding from the businesses it accredits. The BBB’s stated purpose is: “to act as a mutually trusted intermediary to resolve disputes and provide information to assist consumers in making wise buying decisions.” The BBB claims that it maintains “market neutrality,” but we have several clients who might have a different opinion.
There are 113 BBBs that serve communities across the United States and Canada. The BBB is divided into regions. Your company’s principal place of business is the location that determines the regional BBB office. That regional office is your point of contact, even if your company has a national sales reach. As a result, if your company receives a low rating, you must deal with the BBB office located in same region as your principal place of business.
Three Rules for Positive BBB Relations
Rule No. 1. Keep your friends close and your enemies… well you know. The BBB is generally protected by the 1st Amendment right to free speech, even if the speech is harmful to your business and factually wrong. It is worthwhile to remember that the mission of the BBB, viewed purely through a textbook prism, is well worth supporting. When you communicate with the BBB, stress that your company endorses their business purpose. Express your willingness to supply them with the crucial facts about your business. It is well worth the time, effort and energy to educate the BBB on the intricacies of your business that are not apparent to an outside observer.
The BBB rates companies on how responsive they are to consumer complaints. Depending on the size of your company, one person should be appointed who will responsively handle any complaints the BBB receives. Notifying the BBB of your contact person and maintaining an open and responsive attitude towards resolving complaints is a positive technique that should help maintain or improve your company’s BBB rating.
Rule No. 2. Keep all your communications and rating pages. If you are having problems with the BBB, save the BBB web page concerning your business on a daily basis. We have had the BBB change the presentation/rating daily, even several times during the same day. They do not “cache” any pages and once they are taken down from the system, you will not have access to them. Evidence of the rating history is CRITICAL to solving any rating problem your company may experience.
Rule No. 3. Follow the BBB’s own rules to resolve any disputes. The BBB’s own website has great language about high standards, doing the right thing, transparency, full disclosure, etc. that should serve as the basis for all discussions. Become well versed in their rules, language, standards and culture. It certainly pays to speak the BBB’s language and couch your requests in the required manner. Their responses are much more positive if their own rules are followed.
Please visit: Dallas and Northeast Texas BBB and search for the BBB Code of Business Practices and Accreditation Standards.
Dealing with a private entity that is empowered to accredit businesses with public ratings can be a tricky proposition. The desire to maintain or improve a rating can be in direct conflict with the BBB’s own evaluation. The key is to supply the BBB with information that supports your position, draped in their standards and culture, and respectfully communicate your points for the betterment of the entire community.
Remember – the BBB hates to be ignored. With active complaint management, your company can enjoy a high accreditation rating from the BBB.
Please note: This article is for general information purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. You should not act on information received from this article without first seeking advice from your legal counsel.
Bart F. Higgins has practiced commercial litigation for more than two decades, representing individuals, family-owned businesses and publicly traded Fortune 500 companies. He strongly believes that while each side has a story, the better story-teller wins. Higgins digs deeply into the details of his clients’ business to ensure that their story is told. For your commercial litigation needs, Higgins can be your best advocate.