As a small business owner, you’re looking for any advantage when it comes to getting customers. For a fee, the Better Business Bureau claims to help you do just that. What the BBB does is give accreditation to businesses and mediate reviews to allow consumers to make better decisions on who they spend their money with.
But is it worth it? We’ll go over what BBB accreditation means, what happens if your business doesn’t have it and the pros and cons of joining.
What Is the BBB?
Founded over 100 years ago, the Better Business Bureau is a series of nonprofit organizations instituted to be intermediaries between businesses and consumers. According to their website, their mission is to “be the leader in marketplace trust.” They claim to do this by:
- Setting standards for marketplace trust
- Encouraging and supporting best practices by engaging with and educating consumers and businesses
- Celebrating marketplace role models
- Calling out and addressing substandard marketplace behavior
- Creating a community of trustworthy businesses and charities
The BBB network consists of over 100 offices across the country that serves the businesses in their region. You can find your local office here.
One of the things they do is act as a mediator for complaints. When customers submit a negative review to the BBB, the office that covers the region will investigate. You’ll be able to address the complaint, whether that means proving it to be false or working with the customer to comfort their concerns.
Another significant part of the Better Business Bureau’s mission is handing out accreditations to qualified applicants. Obtaining one will have some benefits for your small business, including having a leg up when it comes to disputing negative reviews. Getting yours is simple, but it’s important to weigh whether it’s the right option for you.
What Is BBB Accreditation?
The Better Business Bureau has many programs geared toward protecting consumers, but the flagship is its accreditation system. What this initiative aims to do is vet businesses for potential customers before they decide to do business with them.
In today’s world, review sites are littered with fake or paid submissions planted by owners to try and convince customers to trust them. Even though this process continues to work and get past some, many consumers have become aware of these practices and don’t put as much worth into reviews they see, especially the ones on the company’s website.
What the BBB tries to do with their accreditation system is take the guesswork out of vetting a business, essentially doing all of the legwork for the consumer. They make sure the company in question is conducting their business ethically, responsibly and with the customer’s best interests in mind.
Pros & Cons of BBB Accreditation For Your Small Business
There are many benefits that business owners find in applying for and receiving BBB accreditation. However, some drawbacks could leave you wondering whether it’s worth the price for membership.
A huge talking point for many consumers is trust. Whether or not they have enough information to trust your small business could be the difference in gaining or losing a customer.
The internet lends itself to scams, and people are becoming wary of them. If you have an online-only business or gain a lot of customers on the internet, you want to make sure they can be certain that you’re a reputable company that won’t try to get over on them. Having the BBB accreditation logo on your website, as well as having your business profile on theirs, will calm a customer’s fears about spending their money with you.
Con: Yearly Dues
The main issue small business owners have with the Better Business Bureau is the cost. As a nonprofit organization, they use dues paid by owners like you to fund their operations and pay their employees. That means spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year to be a member, depending on the size of your company.
The worst part is that even non-members can have negative reviews against them, and preference in mediation will be given to those who pay dues. This means it could be harder to improve your business’s image simply because you’re not BBB accredited. It’s up to you to decide whether the benefits to your unique situation outweigh paying money that could go back into growing your company.
Pro: Consumer Visibility
Another important benefit that BBB accreditation offers your small business is a potential increase in exposure. After you’ve been approved, you’ll be permitted to hang the Better Business Bureau logo out front and inside of your business. This gives customers that are familiar with the logo instant assurance that your business has met the rigorous standards that the BBB sets.
The BBB’s internet database will also give customers a way to find you that they wouldn’t otherwise have. They can search for your business directly or come across you when looking for local businesses in your industry. For example, a customer looking for a contractor to repair their deck would type “deck repair” and their zip code on the BBB’s website, leading them to profiles of all accredited businesses in their area and the letter grade they’ve achieved.
Having a robust and favorable business profile in front of customers who are searching for a company like yours will give you a leg up on the competition.
Con: Decreasing Exposure of BBB
While it’s great that you can display your accreditation and be featured on their website, the increased visibility only works if people know what the BBB is. While it’s true that consumers now trust online review sites less, they’re also starting to do their due diligence themselves.
While the BBB will point to the millions of site visitors and hundreds of millions in transactions they claim to have influenced, many small business owners question whether enough people know to check with them, or even care enough to do so. Doing your own Google research will usually net you enough in five minutes to create an informed opinion of a business, so many consumers simply don’t need to go to the Better Business Bureau.
For many industries, this lack of usage makes membership cost-prohibitive. Businesses who have younger, more tech-savvy customers may not need to worry about putting money into a platform that will not produce results. However, if your company does have customers likely to check with the Better Business Bureau, and you don’t have accreditation, the return on investment will be worth it.
How to Become a BBB-Accredited Business
Now that you know why it can be important, you may want to apply to be accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Before you begin, make sure that your business complies with the BBB’s standards. Your rating will be tied to points they give you based on many factors. A few of the things they look at include:
- Previous complaints and how quickly you respond and resolve them
- The type of business you run and how long it has been open
- A track record of honesty and trust with your customers
- Ethics, including honest advertising and handling of customer privacy
- A commitment to integrity in all facets of your business
The accreditation application starts with letting the Better Business Bureau know a little bit about your company. They’ll need to know your business’s name and contact info before supplying you with the rest of the application.
From there, they’ll take the rest of the info you give them and review your case. This can take a few weeks, but you’ll receive a letter and an email letting you know whether you were approved. If you’re denied, you’ll be told why and will be given a timeframe in which you can re-apply.
If your business is approved, they’ll give you both physical and digital copies of their accreditation logo with your assigned letter grade. You can use these to earn trust with your customers by displaying them in your store or on your company’s website. It can be helpful to encourage customers to leave positive reviews with the BBB to further help your efforts.
If you’ve been accredited, make sure to keep up with your membership. Respond to any reviews and complaints promptly. Failure to do so could lower your rating, alienate your BBB-using customers and even have your accreditation removed. Staying engaged also shows customers that you’re involved and concerned about their happiness, which goes a long way into retaining customers and promoting your business.
Whether you decide to apply or not, make sure to maintain a positive presence for your small business. Customers rely on the experiences of others, so make sure to prioritize each transaction and make sure to keep negative reviews at a minimum. Keeping customers happy will keep them coming back and allow them to refer your business to others and help your small business grow.