This afternoon, I was reading an article at KikScore about the Better Business Bureau. I’ve heard many complaints about them over the past few years. Personally I don’t know what to think, as I’ve only been on the consumer end of using them as a point of research.

Here’s what Raj wrote that inspired me to write about this today, in his post entitled “Better Business Bureau – An Accreditation Process Based On How Much Money Your SmallBiz Pays?“:

Remember the Better Business Bureau?  Do you use it? Do you like it? If you found it helpful…well it might not be as helpful as you thought it would be.

According to MSNBC, the BBB’s accreditation process might be based purely on money. Criticism is being directed at the BBB’s aggressive membership sales process.  The BBB has admitted to making mistakes and said that they have reviewed the 16 factors that they consider when deciding whether or not give a business accreditation.  MSNBC’s post goes on to say that it’s better for consumers to solicit opinions on Social Media platforms on the business that you are interested in as opposed to specifically relying on the Better Business Bureau.

This is not the first time that there has been some criticism of BBB as we previously covered news reports by ABC News of BBB allegedly selling grades for small businesses.

The thing that alarms me about the BBB is that they seem to be taking an 20th century view of how to handle an upset customer into the 21st century. I wouldn’t argue against needing a place for people to complain and be heard once they exhaust all their other resources.

But part of me wonders why they never took the opportunity to paint a full picture. The BBB could have been the leaders at taking a neutral stance, and organizing a balanced picture of a company including the Entire social media picture of the company (%positive vs %negative, not just quantity of followers/connections/retweets/likes).

Because companies like Amazon have taken the way we view criticism to a new level. We mistrust products that have 100% positive reviews as much as we mistrust the ones that have 50% negative. We’re learning to accept that everyone doesn’t get along, and that sometimes it’s not that the company is a bad one, it’s that there was a bad fit.

It’s like when I’m reading movie reviews and I find one bad one – a lot of times someone who likes romantic comedies will give an action picture a bad score because it was an action picture.

But that’s not about quality of the product, that’s about expectation and preference. Just because you don’t like that kind of movie doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie.

Not to say that I’m advocating the right to just ignore pieces of information that we perceive as negative. It seems unfair that a person or company can say whatever they want to about another company or person without the other party being given equal time. Rip Off Report has rebuttals, yes, but have you ever given the weight of a rebuttal equal time in your mind on those sites, as a consumer? And is being on the defensive the best way to present yourself in a positive light?

Another way to view this is in the case of a bigger company trying to swallow a smaller company. If there’s no regulation beyond suing for slander or libel, then a big company could theoretically hire individuals to post negative views, or even help fund people who have grievances to attempt to pressure the small entity to sell, and not even know it was happening. Common, no, but not unheard of, not by a long shot. In that case is it really fair that the company with the larger resources wins?

Yes, with social media and proactive reputation management, the smaller company can persevere. But how many small corporations know to be proactive? I just read on Small Business trends that 47% of small business still don’t use social media! What will you defend your good name with if you don’t have these channels set up and active in advance? It is a long, hard, uphill struggle to build a good reputation on top of a bad one. There’s much less effort to ward off attacks from a strong offensive position – you may even have your fans rally on your behalf.

But never mind being subtle – to be blunt you need to set up your social media channels now if for no other reason than to be prepared for an attack on your reputation. No matter what great footing you may have now, one slip-up by one employee, or one comment taken out of context can screw up years of unblemished conduct if you don’t have the tools ready to fight back.





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