A business’s rating with the Better Business Bureau can make a difference in the number of consumers it attracts. Savvy customers may check these scores — often viewed as stamps of approval — before deciding to do business with a particular company.
Receiving BBB accreditation requires first registering through the BBB office that covers your area. To qualify, you must have been in business at least one year, pay annual dues, and uphold the BBB’s standards for members. Businesses are rated on a grading system from A+ to F, with A+ being the highest. At times, the BBB may give a business NR (No Rating) if insufficient information is available about a business’s performance at that time.
But businesses don’t achieve A+ status overnight. And those that do may find that rating revised downward if customers file complaints. Although some operations merit negative ratings, there are instances where a business simply can’t satisfy certain customers. A complaint may even be completely false, with the business finding itself in a “he said/she said” dispute with the customer. In these cases, there are a few steps that a small-business owner can take to help improve their rating.
- Become a member. If you’ve been in business more than a year and are interested in achieving BBB accreditation, apply here. Although the bureau came under scrutiny in 2010 for giving better ratings to businesses that paid a fee, it says it has since changed its practices. And having its accreditation seal on your website can increase customer trust, according to an academic study on trust-promoting seals.
- Operate honestly. The BBB says 13 criteria impact a business’s BBB rating. From this list, it’s clear that the best way to achieve and maintain the highest possible rating is to operate with integrity and honesty, year after year. Obtain and keep current all relevant businesses licenses. Make sure your marketing and advertising campaigns are as sincere as possible.
- Evaluate complaints objectively. A customer complaint can actually be a blessing in disguise. As John Goodman writes in Strategic Customer Service [PDF], most complaints are directed toward a front-line employee and never make their way to the people who need to know. A BBB complaint lets you know clearly where problems exist in your organization, so you can fix them before you lose another customer.
- Review your business. BBB complaints fall within categories
such as honesty in advertising, billing and collection, delivery issues, warranty issues, or problems with a particular product or service. Your organization should make every effort to keep its promises, including adhering to estimated delivery times and honoring warranties and return policies. Make sure every staff member is aware of these policies and enforces them fairly and consistently.
- Respond to complaints. It’s important to take every step possible to resolve any BBB complaints you receive. This doesn’t mean you have to admit any wrongdoing. Contact the BBB in writing and explain your side of the story; you may do this via its website. Failure to respond will be noted on your company’s BBB page and will negatively impact your reliability report.
Building a good reputation as a business takes time. Earning accreditation and operating with integrity are two steps in the right direction. Most complaints are removed from a business’s BBB record in three years, so an isolated incident is unlikely to spell
doom for a company.