Love or hate the Better Business Bureau, it’s one of the bigger sites to have dipped a couple toes in the greenish-brown pond of local business reviews. In my experience it’s a great place to get reviews, as I’ve written.
But the current local-reviews landscape is the Wild West. The sheriff in TripAdvisorville seems to shoot straight, but the one at Yelp Rock ain’t no Will Kane. Meanwhile, the sheriff of Mountain View is never in town, and his one deputy managed to lock himself in the cell with the town drunk.
And those are the big sites that actually attempt quality-control of reviews. Facebook and YellowPages? Ha.
Like Angie’s List, BBB actually seems to try. Not to say that no bogus reviews wind up there (bogus reviews are everywhere), but at least there’s an effort.
A higher-up at a regional BBB chapter read my post on how it’s an “underrated” review site, and sent me some info, which prompted me to ask him a few questions. He prefers not to be named in this post, but here’s the inside scoop he gave me on BBB reviews:
A: No, there is no automatic filter on BBB reviews. We have BBB staff that read them, as well as ask the business if this person is a customer.
Q: Under what circumstances do you remove a customer’s review manually?
A: Since October 2015 (at my chapter of the BBB) 17% of our online reviews submitted to the BBB were not published. Reasons could have been that 1) BBB was not able to verify that the person writing the review was a customer, or that 2) the review contained abusive language.
Q: Under what special circumstances will BBB reveal the identity of an anonymous reviewer to the business owner?
A: The BBB does not post any anonymous reviews. Once the BBB receives a review it goes into a 3-day “holding tank” before we publish that gives the BBB time to email the business to verify that the review is in fact from a customer and gives the business an opportunity to respond. The BBB does protect the identity of the reviewer by not posting identifiable information. Same regarding formal complaints. We would not publish a complaint that was sent anonymously.
Q: Do formal complaints factor into the “star” rating of a business, and not just against its “letter” grade?
A: No, formal complaints do not factor into the star rating. Currently we have 2 separate grading systems. The A+ – F grading system is based on standards the business meets and has earned. The star rating system is based on consumers’ opinions of the business.
Q: To get reviews on BBB, first you need to get listed. You can pay to get accredited, of course, but then there’s the free submission option (which has been relocated at least once, and never has been easy to find). Why is that form so buried and, seemingly, so ineffective?
A: We have had a massive problem with citation building services who white-label their product to agencies submitting inaccurate data – either by accident or maliciously to attempt to damage a competitor’s listing. This has created a massive amount of work for our staff. Often they submit data we already have listed. If we get a listing that we think is submitted inaccurately, we try to reach out to the business by phone and later by letter and send them a questionnaire asking them to update their file in our system (free of charge). We don’t always get return phone calls or get our questionnaires returned. If we think the data is submitted inaccurately, we don’t publish it.
We are also getting a lot of submissions that have virtual office addresses that we can’t verify have employees in the United States. The business can’t be verified in public records of the state or county.
What I really think makes our database so great is that we have humans who act as “Curators” or caretakers to verify that the information that we report to the public is correct. We take this very seriously at our chapter of the BBB. It is what we dedicate the most financial and human resources to, especially regarding our Accredited Business Directory. Those businesses and their owners have been background-checked, and we’ve checked their licenses, business start dates, verified addresses, etc. That is why you won’t find an un-licensed mover in our Accredited Business Directory, or an unlicensed handyman lumped into the licensed plumbing categories.
Another thing that I think really sets us apart from other directory sites is that we ask for sizing information from the company. For example, we know AT&T would be considered a “colossal large” business because of the number of customers they have. It would be acceptable for them to get 500 complaints a year and, as long as they respond and make a good-faith effort to resolve those complaints, they could still maintain an A+ record. Contrast that with a pool builder who builds 20 pools a year and gets 10 complaints. To us, that’s less expected and more of a concern.
Anyway, we are in the process of making some major improvements to our website and iPhone app. We are moving in the right direction digitally, just moving slower than I would wish! 🙂
How does that square with your experience with Better Business Bureau reviews?
Any questions I can pass on to someone at the BBB?
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