Dealing with a Better Business Bureau complaint about your company is like unclogging your toilet: it stinks and it would be nice if it had never happened in the first place. Also, it’s not exactly something you can ask someone else to take care of. Unless your plumber is on speed dial and has no sense of smell. In which case, email me his phone number please.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the BBB has its way of doing things, and for the most part, it’s great. Speedy resolutions to genuine customer service problems. Used correctly by both the business and the consumer, the BBB provides consumer advice, almost to the point of advocacy, and can help someone make the correct decisions both for their business and their personal consumption.
It can also be a great conduit for customer service. Responding to complaints not only ensures you’re providing someone with the customer service they demand (which you should have been doing in the first place, more on that in a second), but also the gravity of the complaint will ensure that you stop it from ever happening again. A thorough investigation of how the complaint happened in the first place leads to an opportunity to “seal the crack”.
But like the blocked porcelain u-bend, when you’re waist deep, I’m sure you’ll be thinking the same thing we all do, that it should have never gotten this far at all. So how do you prevent your customers from complaining about you to the BBB? (Not so) Simple! Provide award-winning customer service. Do everything, move heaven and earth.
One thing we decided very early in the process of building a Customer Service experience from the ground up was that there really should be no such thing as a retention department, i.e., a bank of CS reps/”supervisors” whose job it is to take the “I want to leave” calls. Retention should be done by positive, thorough, and excellent Customer Service. If your customer is calling to cancel, it’s too late.
The Better Business Bureau is a little bit like a Wikipedia of companies, an enormous wealth of information and ranking of a company’s post-sales behavior, populated primarily by consumer input, watched over by only themselves with as fair a yardstick as they can muster. And they do it brilliantly. Moreover, the BBB answers to no one! No one’s watching the watchdog, because, essentially, they’re so good that they watch themselves.
Ritz-Carlton has a different idea, however. They, at one time, maintained, and largely did not dispute, their F rating with a local BBB branch. Why should they? They’re the Ritz-Carlton. Fed up with what they perceived as a protection racket philosophy with the BBB complaints, they simply ignored them. Now that’s another way of actually focusing on the Customer Service side of things entirely. We can’t fault them, though, when Apple was building a CS philosophy, they benchmarked the hospitality giants. Praise from Caesar is praise indeed.
In terms of marketing, your highly polished BBB rating can be an effective sales tool. Some say it’s best to let the customer discover it, rather than cram it down their throats, depends on your sales style, really. That’s probably best left for another post.
One thing’s for sure, the BBB/consumer/merchant/business relationship is as close to an American capitalist system as it needs to be, a playing field so massive and populous that the rules regulate themselves. We all have something to give and something to take, and, as long as you approach the game with a positive and proactive mindset, you have every chance to come out a winner.
As a business owner or a consumer, how do you work with the BBB? Let us know in the comments.