Just Got BBB Accreditation. But, Does It Matter Anymore?
Is joining and maintaining a membership in the Better Business Bureau worth it? Or, a BBB accreditation a waste of time?
This post was originally written in 2009 when I purchased BBB accreditation. Then, it was updated in 2014 (see below). I no longer bother maintaining a BBB membership. However, since this post still gets search traffic from people looking into the BBB, I’ve left it here for posterity. Enjoy!
Late last week, I got word from the Better Business Bureau that I am now officially accredited by them. I paid them about $600 and had them go over my business to make sure I’m legitimate. It took a couple of weeks, but it is now done.
The question, though, is WHY did I bother? Is the BBB even relevant anymore?
In This Post…
Is the BBB Accreditation Relevant?
The BBB was formed with the mission of advancing “marketplace trust”. They do this by holding their members accountable to trustworthy business practices, encouraging best practices, and speaking out against bad market behavior. I think it is a worthy mission. However, the questions remains: Does anybody really bother checking the BBB anymore?
What’s interesting, too, is that their fee structure is a bit discriminatory against online businesses. I had to pay them an extra fee to get into the BBBOnline program – only because I am an online business.
Why Did I Bother With The BBB?
The answer comes down to one word: TRUST.
No doubt, some businesses seek the BBB accreditation because they’re looking for client referrals. I highly doubt the BBB refers much in the way of clients and I’m not interested in getting clients anyway. However, the logo does still instill a sense of trust. Especially to the the generation who didn’t grow up around the Internet.
See, internet businesses like mine often use things like sales letters. Now, be honest…when you visit a sales letter, do you automatically assume it is a scam? I don’t, but that’s only because I am familiar with how online business works. But, the normal “joe blow” on the street who doesn’t live their life on the Internet is probably not accustomed to long form sales letters. Internet businesses are unproven territory to these people. They look for signs that the business is legit and that they’re not going to take your money and run.
This is why I bothered with the BBB.
It most certainly isn’t going to hurt anything. My expectation is that it will improve conversion rates and make more sales. Especially when I cater to less-online-savvy markets.
I don’t know exactly what they checked with me in all. I know the process took a little more than 2 weeks. They had me sign up for a business occupational license with the county (only cost me $15). They also went over 3 Day Money with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that it was not a disguised “business opportunity” and that my income claims are accurate. I had to send them proof of income to prove that what I say is correct (which it is).
So, that’s why I did it. I’ll keep you informed on any effects on sales I notice.
As I was going through my archives and cleaning things up, I came across this post from 2009. And it got enough traffic every day to warrant an update. So, here it is…
I have since dropped my membership in the BBB. The reason was that it became apparent to me over time that it simply wasn’t useful. It did nothing to increase my sales. The BBB, in their attempts to renew me, would tell me how many people had inquired on my business in their database – but interestingly, they ONLY bothered to tell me that when they were trying to get me to renew. Not only that, the nature of my business is that if somebody wanted to find out about me, they easily could. After all, my online presence is pretty large and the last thing I need is the BBB to tell people what to think.
So, I determined that the BBB did me no good at all, and their only real purpose was membership dues.
I emphasize… this is MY opinion. I can’t speak for another business owner.
All this time later and this post is still getting traffic. Amazing how much staying power the Better Business Bureau seems to have.
Look, at this point, I believe the only people who still think the BBB means something are the older generation. And business owners seem to pursue BBB accreditation mainly so they can slap a logo seal on their site.
This organization has no primary purpose anymore, in my opinion.
Today, people seek third-party proof in the form of Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews, and reviews on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, AngiesList, etc.
Real, honest reviews from other real people. That’s what matters. Not BBB logos.
So, in my opinion, skip the BBB. If you’re still in the BBB, I would even consider cancelling your membership and save the money.
Instead, focus on providing great service to your customers. Then, set up an automated, reliable way to gather testimonials and social reviews from your customers.
There are other ways to show social proof for your business than just the BBB.
I view the BBB in the same way as I view the Chamber of Commerce – both are outdated organizations with questionable relevance who exploit the fact that their names “sound” official and important. They profit by brainwashing businesses into believing that by paying an exorbitant sum of money then they will be “accredited” and will receive a ton of new revenue from customers who would supposedly never consider purchasing goods or services from a company which isn’t. I would hazard a guess that there are very few consumers under 50 who give a damn about these organizations, and virtually nobody under the age of 30 has even heard of them. Like the Yellow Pages, they’re desperately clinging to an aging (and shrinking) demographic which is stuck in the past.
I did not join the BBB for many years because I simply could not afford the cost, but now that I have been a paying member for several years I can tell you this, MANY of my clients found me after checking with the BBB. I get 95% of my business from the internet. I am the owner of BCI PROPERTIES LLC in Lakewood WA. If you have a brick and mortar business then you are well advised to have their sign on your front window, plus your website.
I bought a new motor home a few years ago and had a problem that was clearly the fault of the dealer. They would not give me any help so I went to the BBB since the dealer proudly displayed the BBB on their front door.
What a joke that was as I explained the problem and the BBB told my how badly I had been treated and would get back to me……never ever heard a word from them and I called them again and they brushed me off…….maybe I should buy the right to the BBB and put it in my front window …….it is a scam and I think people are finding that out!
I was just wondering if it is common for the BBB to call you on your personal cell phone and ask for money to register with them. I just feel as if I’m being scammed because she called on my personal cell phone and called from what I assumed to be a cell phone or personal number instead of a business number. So again my question is, Is it common for the BBB to call YOU and ask for credit card information to pay a registration fee ?
It is worth it for sure our BBB report gets over 3000 views per month and our sales have increased since becoming members. We live in a a world where sites like yelp,manta, angies list are to easy to post fake reviews customers still rely heavily on the BBB when making purchasing decisions. its well worth the few hundred dollars.
a bbb rep just called our firm to get us to pay for their accreditation service. but the funny thing is the rep didn’t know the name of our company. whats the point of that? the message left on our voice mail was pretty dumb to not know the name of the company especially when we announce the name of the company on the voice mail.
I believe the BBB is just as relevant now as it ever was. A great tool for consumers to check out the background of a company. With many fraudulent positive and negative reviews on the web, people can rest assured BBB complaints are actually vetted.
From my experience what I have learned is BBB has its own advantages like one getting a backlink from a high trusted website.
The only thing that really matters is what consumers really think. Most people don’t know about how BBB makes money all they know is that if they need to go some where to really check on a company they can go to BBB. It just makes people feel good to see that BBB logo on your site.
This is interesting. As a consumer I discovered that the accreditation means nothing. The only thing I look for are complaints. http://www.nyaproductreviewer.com/2014/03/bbb-accrediation-means-very-little-to.html
We just got the BBB and we had a call in the first week. The Customer said she only called because i had the BBB logo on the site! I paid around 845.00 bucks. But in a few months time it will pay off! well worth it.. even know trying to deal with them they are slow and bossy lol other then that its well worth the money.. I want to get in yelp too! dose anyone have feed back on Yelp?
I onced worked for the BBB. And I left after 3 days, (3 days to long) the training process is read read and read the script. When calling businesess you are told to pressure the Owner into buying into the BBB, get the money, get the money, that is all they care about.
My business was BBB certified for 3 years. We had one complaint, it was a scam… I realized that in the end, our business success was predicated upon our level of professionalism, ethics and morals…and of course delivering on our promises consistently. The BBB is a joke, like most third parties claiming to advance your business presence, it is essentially a large marketing firm…out to increase their revenues not yours. What’s more they have zero authority over how you conduct business. I never had a client say, I saw your BBB accreditation therefore, I am interested in hiring you… We did have a crazy person think that the BBB would punish us due to their dramatic false accusations. Results speak for themselves, we have doubled our business since we stopped with BBB, and I now consult other start ups to focus on their own personal level of dedication to their business…if you want to spend money hire a really good marketing company, not the BBB. Times have changed, BBB is out dated and not relevant in todays social media networking environment.
I believe that BBB accreditation will become more and more valuable over time, especially in the Internet age, where people get scammed online left and right.
There’s a strong basic need for a reliable system that tells the consumer if a certain business is legitimate and trustworthy or not.
When a business gets the BBB stamp of approval, the customer knows that it is very unlikely that he will get scammed or even ‘just’ mistreated.
However, I agree that some businesses will not benefit from a BBB accreditation as much.
It will probably not matter much to well known brands (like Amazon), because they don’t have any customer trust issues.
However, it may matter a lot to businesses (especially online ones) that are not well known brands or that belong to business segments that have serious credibility and trust issues.
As soon as i have a problem with a company, I go directly to the BBB website to see if this company has had related problems. Its like a second instinct. I trust they will be fair and I have also used their services in the past. I think they are a great resource.
Angies List is the new BBB. The BBB is a fee based “good marks” scam. Angies list is real, good, and honest. They don’t ask for money to make your score better!
Angie’s is a BBB Member. I have heard that they give out free memberships to consumers aka friends of the businesses they list. Angie’s does ask for money from those commenting otherwise will allow a company a badge of honor for a fee. BBB is not pay for play. You can not be a member unless you meet certain points for a score, if you will. I can have an A+ without membership because my business has been operating for a decade without incident.
Hi and thank you for this excellent post and helpful comments. I was contacted by the BBB this morning and was on the fence about joining. I think the inbound link from them has some value, but it sounds like they are shaking people down and manipulating ratings based on membership.
The real value of BBB Accreditation is the TRUST it inspires in the minds of your customers. Because it it a well established company, consumers recognize the BBB symbol and — for the most part — trust in its rating system.
That being said, there are more affordable alternatives available to small business owners. The National Association of Small Business Professionals (NASBP.us) has recently launched an Accredited Business Program which is included absolutely free to “Premier Certified Members”. Membership costs only $89 a year, so it’s well worth looking in to. There are also a vast array of website Trust Seals and Membership Badges for print and online use — again absolutely FREE with Premier Certified Membership.
Hope this info proves helpful to small business owners trying to establish trust and build up credibility on a small budget.
We have been in business for 5 years, have had over 2000 clients, and have 5 complaints. Of those 5 complaints that are service related, we resolved 4 of them to the clients satisfaction. We have an F rating.
I emailed the BBB and they informed me they advocate for members? So I called them, and was informed that if I joined for 600 dollars I would “enjoy the advocating services” and this would impact my score heavily the man on the phone (Tom) assured me. He went on to explain that many things effect the ability of the BBB to lower a score. He told me that by joining he could help me. So in an unbelievable and unexpected result. I asked him this.
“So you are telling me, if I join and pay you guys, you can help me get a better rating.” his response was. “Yes sir, that is one of the many privileges of BBB membership.” I then said. “Wow, I better join if I want a good rating.” I said this laughing, and he responded. “Yup, that’s right.”
So instead I asked him to remove my score, as I am not joining he refused, so I did some research, have letters from all four clients saying they are happy, and am filing in Federal Court against them as I recorded my call. They are a sham, and I plan to use my resources and press contacts to see their practices stopped. They are using Google placement and bad ratings as a way to get money from businesses.
I have had the same issues as PETECU. It is a total sham and if you need help filing etc I will stand by you. My previous employer had a family member get hired by the BBB and all of a sudden they have a A+ rating and no one can read their complaints. Its all about who you know and what your willing to pay
Not really needed anymore. All they provide is a means for someone to complain about you whether they are right or wrong. The more you pay for membership the higher your rating . They may have had their time to be but not anymore. Save your money.
I have an interview and the company is showed as “Not BBB Accredited” should I be worried…..
After reviewing all comments, I think I shouldn’t as a job seeker….but as a consumer I would be.
Please comment your concerns
The BBB is kind of like Alexa rankings. Either of the two holds very little weight in terms of being an accurate measure of a company, but both can be used as tools for promoting a company’s value to potential customers/clients. Good write-up, David.
The BBB has completely re-vamped their online business directory and it is now frequently showing up on the first page of Google results when people search for a small business name. That alone is worth something.
The Los Angeles Times ran an article on the peculiar practice of BBB http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/21/busines…
As a consumer, I am now informed properly about this BBB, and will look at their logo with disgust.
As a consumer searching to select the best contractor to do a job on my house, you may be interested to know that I am now checking if BBB accreditation is a honest business! They totally confuse me with their method of accreditation and by not replying to my questions. What is missing in reference letters is the follow up of a job. Is the contractor answering request to repair or fix problems appearing months later? That is what I want to know. Because, if it does not it means that 1) it did not perform a good job on the first place, and 2) he disappear after he got the check. BBB is the only source on the web that I know who is looking at claims. But, I ask them to explain me how they provide grade to businesses which are not unaccredited, and give better rate to company with several complains pending. They did not reply. Now, it may be informative to know that I am in NJ. So, I am now searching on BBB to see who is really beyond this. Bye.
it's very much the same but with accreditation you are allowed to use their logo and advertise with it. Also, it states on their site if you are “Accredited” or not and to some naive people it would appear better to be. My business was put on BBB and rated without my knowledge or anything I tried to do, but i'm happy to be in their system and will pay the fee for the accreditation only to use the BBB logo.
it's worth it for me because the way i see it the fee is a 3-year license to use the BBB logo in order to gain more trust which in turn gives us more business and we make more money. Most people trust BBB ratings and feel safe that there is somewhere else they can turn to other than the business they have a problem with if something goes wrong. When the BBB is advertised, it reminds people that if the company was a scam, it surely would have been reported on already. Those are just a few points, but in my opinion, yes it's worth it and i plan on paying that “Fee” in order to add that logo to my website and letters.
Is BBB accreditation worth the cost???
I personally do not think so. I cannot see how this can increase your search engine rankings.
It might help to give buyers more confidence in your business but that is all.
The best thing with regard to this is that it’s an SEO booster.
What!? BBB accreditation has nothing to do with Google ranking… Oh but it does in a way have something to do with it; not so much to do with authority as to do with trust: –
Search engines will give a site a better ranking if it’s a known and respected company. For instance; one of my sites, shazzalive.com: You’ve never heard of it right? It has very little content, it’s really currently something of nothing. How much trust is a search engine going to rank it by? Virtually zero probably. Compare that to, say, amazon.com – Everyone knows amazon.com; it has a fantastic reputation and almost everyone if not everyone would trust it commercially. It publishes its accounts publicly and has withstood all inspections and scrutiny thrown at it by any and all official bodies. By those facts alone, amazon.com gets a listing at or near the top of the first page, while shazzalive.com gets listed on page 100+.
Dave’s boxing clever here: A BBB Accreditation might at first appear to be fairly pointless, even a waste of money on the surface; but there is method behind his “madness”: A BBB Accreditation increases trust in PC Media Inc. and in pcmech.com, maybe even davidrisley.com too; and subsequently scores extra points with Google.
Every little helps.
In my opinion the The Better Business Bureau, BBB is little more than a scam. During my brick and mortar days I was a member so I’m very familiar with how they operate. They’re a green company for sure, only interested in greenbacks.
It’s surprising to me that consumers think this organization will ever do anything meaningful to cite or reprimand the very companies they rely (extort) on for revenue. It ain’t gonna happen, never has and never will.
If a co vigorously supports the BBB, that co will rarely, if ever, receive a negative report from the BBB. Take the 3 major credit reporting agencies (organizations I battled for clients in my b&m days). These 3 corrupt credit bureaus trample on consumers’ rights with a flawed credit reporting system rife with errors and unfair, unjust practices. The BBB turns a blind eye to the daily misery and suffering heaped on innocent consumers by the 3 major CRAs because the BBB knows which side their bread is buttered on.
Woe to the co that does not cave into the BBB’s telemarketing scam sales tactics. If you don’t give in to BBB extortion, they WILL give you a negative report. Here’s how they get away with this dishonest tactic. Should a consumer inquire about a co that hasn’t paid BBB “hush money”, he will receive a disingenuous report saying “this co has refused to comply with BBB requests for information”.
What a racket.
Recently, as I’ve been researching online businesses, especially businesses based around blogging, I have actually been looking for the BBB logo. This isn’t something I would normally do. As you mentioned, there are other ways to tell if a company is legit or not. However, for some reason I just found myself thinking about the BBB in these circumstances
I do still think the name goes a long way (in the U.S.) from a branding perspective. I don’t know exactly how you’ll measure the results from it, but it will be interesting to know if your business picks up drastically.
All the best!
I have to agree with Mike, I have never heard of it before. But if it is something that builds trust especially with the aging generation (which could be a big part of your customers – older people larning pc skills) then I’d say it is definately worth it.
Well if the BBB logo can increase your conversion just 1% that will still be a good investment in the long run. And I can see why it wouldn’t because as you say it is all about trust.
I say yes that BBB is worth getting if you are a business it shows to your potential customers that you are a trustworthy business. If a customer has any problems they are a go between between the business and the customer. Greg Ellison
Interesting – I’d never heard of BBB, but I’m guessing that’s because it’s either US only or very US focused.
What this does open up is an interesting discussion. Should there be a body for online entrepreneurs like us? Is there anything like that?
I would be interested in becoming accredited to something like that, although it would have to be a serious organisation with decent standards – there are many in the offline world who simply take money to dish out certificates.
What does everyone else think?
I know a lot of businesses get accredited by the BBB, but in many circles it’s a bit of a joke – you pay your money and get added to the roles of “BBB Businesses”. On the other hand – their logo and their name is shorthand for “trustworthy”, even if being an actual member doesn’t mean that much. so – for most it’s probably worth it I would think.
I agree. If you are selling on line, or if you really want to support them. they solve 1200 complaints a year between Hotwire and its customers, and Hotwire doesn’t contribute a dime. A LOT of businesses benefit greatly from the BBB taking care of escalated customer service issues. but some people don’t want to do any research before giving an opinion based on nothing but shallow opinion.
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