I came across a story posted at
Search Engine Land
pointing out that Google has an "unsatisfactory" record with The
Better Business Bureau
. How can a company
" in 2008 at the same time have an unsatisfactory record with
the BBB? Apparently because out of 331 complaints filed against the search giant
over the past three years, 2 were listed as unresolved. that's right - just 2!
Despite this, Google continues to lead the way in search and nothing on the
horizon seems to be able to change that.
This got me thinking as to whether the BBB is still a useful resource in
today's online world. Their mission is to be the leader in advancing
"marketplace trust" which they accomplish by creating communities of trustworthy
businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting
best practices, celebrating marketplace role models, and denouncing substandard
marketplace behavior. Businesses have always been proud to display their BBB
membership, which indicates they are "more trustworthy" than non BBB member
Two things have me concerned however as to whether the BBB has outlived
their usefulness, especially in the case of "online" businesses.
1. BBB Discriminates Against Online Business
When a company becomes a BBB member, they are given a certificate that
announces their membership. Many will proudly display this in their offices or
storefronts so that customers can see they are a member. They may also use the
BBB logo it in print advertising to identify their membership. However, should a
company decide to announce their membership online via a web site for example,
they can only do so through the BBB's Online
. Did I mention that this requires an extra fee?
argued in the past
that the BBB's policy to charge extra when displaying the
BBB logo online is a discriminatory practice against online business, especially
those who have no other way to announce their membership (i.e. they don't have a
physical location or storefront). Online businesses not only have to pay the
annual BBB member dues which are based on the number of employees they have,
they also have to pay a separate fee to announce that membership on their sites.
The Better Business Bureau needs to recognize that most businesses today
have an online presence and that many of their existing or potential customers
will visit them there long before entering a physical location. As a BBB member,
a company should have the right to announce that membership on their web sites,
social media profiles, online press releases and the like, without having to pay
extra fees. Until the BBB changes their policy on this, it is nothing short of
2. Do People Even Use The BBB Any Longer?
Since joining the Better Business Bureau in 1998, I can count the number
of clients that have been referred as a result of them on both hands. On the
other hand, the number of clients who have found us online via organic search
results is phenomenal.
This leads me to wonder how much credibility consumers actually place in
BBB valuations. It would seem to me that businesses should have much more
concern over what people are saying about them online. I'm talking about online
reputation. For example, conduct a search for any brand name - even your own.
What do the first page of search results say? Are they positive, negative or
even indifferent? This is the space where many consumers are now looking when
qualifying whether they want to do business with a company or not.
Every time the BBB semi-annual billing statement has arrived in the mail,
I have wrestled as to whether to continue my company's membership or not. So
far, the BBB has won although I have refused to pay the extra fees for the
Online Reliability Program for the last few years even though the BBB logo is
present on our sites.
I am much more concerned over what the search results say about our
company and if you are a business owner you should as well. If something
negative begins to show up on the first page, especially above the fold, it can
cause irreparable damage to your business. Many companies have discovered this
the hard way which then forced them into the very often difficult task of having
to repair their tarnished reputations.
A Better Solution?
One of the beneficial things about BBB membership, at least for consumers,
is that you as a company agree to work out disputes with clients. This however
is a defense mechanism. In other words, you do not react until the consumer is
upset about something. A proactive approach is a much better solution in my
opinion. How does one go about accomplishing this? There are several ways to do
this with the main idea being "open yourself to communication."
This can be done with a company blog that is open to comments. Putting out
quality content that is somehow related to your industry or even the specific
products and services you offer is a good start. Allowing consumers to interact
with you via the comment system is the icing on the cake. It will allow them to
engage you of which they might praise you, probe you for more information or
even criticize you. It also allows you to react to them, oftentimes long before
negativity hits the search results or the BBB.
Getting involved with social media is also a great way to be proactive.
Setting up profiles on all the major social media sites using your brand name(s)
is a great way to
control what the search results are saying
about you. But don't stop there.
Get involved with social media, especially when people are talking about you.
It's all about getting involved in the conversation. Consumers want an
open dialog with the companies they choose to do business with. So give them
what they want.
This is what Google does so well. They give consumers what they want -
relevant search as well as a wide variety of other products. They keep the door
open for communication as well. That is why an unsatisfactory record with the
BBB has not hurt them in the least. They continue to grow, acquire and dominate.
Our BBB membership comes due in December and to be honest with you, I
think I might let it go this time around. I just don't see the value any longer
when there are so many other productive things you can do to establish trust
July 23, 2008