Should my plumbing company join the BBB? (Better Business Bureau)

by | Nov 16, 2018 | Diagnostic

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with the BBB. I do not receive any monetary or otherwise compensation from them. This post was not solicited by nor is it, to my knowledge, endorsed by the BBB. (Probably because I called them grandmotherly.)

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been around since 1912. It was the original – and for a long time only – marketplace trust organization on the market. Nowadays, that market is crowded. The advent of online review companies has made the BBB seem a little … grandmotherly. 

So is it worth it for a service company like plumbers, electricians, and heating and air to join the BBB? Well, I say yes. Here is why:

What is the Better Business Bureau Exactly?

The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization. It exists to protect consumers and does that by vetting companies and “accrediting” them. This isn’t the Chamber of Commerce where you can join no matter what.

You have to earn a spot. It’s not super hard, but there is a line in the sand. Some people complain that the BBB isn’t truly unbiased because you have to pay to become accredited.  

While the BBB is not-for-profit it does have expenses like a regular business. And unlike some charities, like the Salvation Army or the little orphans down the street, it doesn’t make much sense to elicit donations off the street. Bell ringers for the BBB? I don’t think so.

So, if every day Joe’s aren’t going to fund the BBB, then who does? It isn’t a government organization and corporate donations have obvious complications. The answer then is that to become accredited you pay a fee every year.

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Do I Have to Pay?

No, you can register your business at the BBB for free. Getting listed is as simple as filling out an online form. With an online listing, your business is “on the map” with the BBB and can collect reviews. Fees are only associated with becoming accredited. 

How the BBB is Different from Yelp or Google

Aside from preceding either of these companies by nearly 100 years, the BBB is demonstrably different than any other review generation websites.

The biggest difference is that Yelp, Google, and their friends are trying to sell advertising. The best reviews rise to the top only with the assistance of advertising dollars. Plus, the legitimacy of the reviews (and the business) don’t really matter to these companies.

In fact, the number of negative reviews doesn’t impact a BBB score as much as how the company handles it does. They want to see that you are doing business with integrity, honesty, and transparency – not that you have a perfect track record. Interesting, huh?

Some even align a BBB score more with a credit score than a rating. 

The bureau has what they deem an ‘unbiased’ process for vetting businesses. However, some people point out the obvious conflict of interest and will debate how unbiased they can be. After all, are they really going to turn down a company that pays them?  

The BBB process is meant to verify that the business is legitimate. Reviews are nice (that’s how you get that A+ rating!) but the complaints are what make or break you.

What Happens with Complaints

The bureau acts as an intermediary between the company and the customer. Think of it like bringing an adult in the room. They start by asking the consumer if they’ve already tried to work it out with the company. The complaint has to fit into a set of specific criteria (to weed out the crazy). 

If, and only if, those conditions are met does the BBB get involved. If they deem the complaint legitimate, they ask for a response from the company.

Failure to respond can result in loss of accreditation. If the business isn’t accredited, their profile will reflect the complaint and that the business didn’t try to resolve the issue. That looks … pretty bad. 

The BBB doesn’t have any real power of the business, except the influence of their accreditation process and the bad profile. So a complaint can’t ruin you or put you out of work, but it can dent your reputation. In case you are wondering, that complaint will sit on your profile for three full years (36 months) after it is closed. 

A New Reason to Join

Google recently did another update of their algorithm. That’s the code that decides when your business shows up at the top of page 1 vs being buried on page 23. In this update, they said that one of the “trust signals” they would look for is a clear link to the BBB on the homepage. 

That’s huge.

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Basically, that is Google saying “we trust the BBB over other review websites.” If you do nothing else, take advantage of this. While the Google update didn’t explain whether it would take company ratings into consideration (they may just look for the link) it will be a factor. 

That means a few things:

  1. You should really get listed on the BBB if you aren’t already.
  2. Link to it from your homepage. A badge is best (that’s the picture that links to your profile.). 

Do I Need to Get Accredited?

The challenge is that complaints can lead to loss of accreditation. So, over and above the reviews on your profile, an accreditation means that you are in good standing and have had no major issues filed against you.

Also, the badge comes with accreditation. 

It isn’t strictly necessary, but it shows that you want to be seen as trustworthy and dependable. The process can cost between $400 and $1,000, depending on your city. 

The Accreditation Process

In order to become accredited with the BBB, you must meet a set of 16 standards. A few of the big ones are:

  1. Operate for six months
  2. Demonstrate proper licensing
  3. Have at least a B rating
  4. Advertise honestly

The bureau is interested in honesty, integrity, and truthfulness. They want to see that you are operating as a legitimate company and not a scam. That is actually a pretty low bar. 

The process, while moderately pricey for a young company, is worth it in the long run. Their standards for trust are actually pretty good tenants for excellence in customer service. Showing your potential customers (and Google) that you are willing to submit to that inspection can send a really powerful signal.

Do Customers Care?

A BBB link is one of many things that Google is looking at when deciding to rank your website. While it is a simple enough step (so worth doing), it probably isn’t worth a $400+ price tag. That means the big question is whether customers care about the BBB.

Common sense would tell us that it certainly can’t hurt to have a good rating. Maybe it seems old-fashioned. What millennial is going to the BBB before they look at Google reviews?

Very few. 

According to FitSmallBusiness.com in their interview with the President of the BBB the statistics are compelling:

  • 90% of consumers recognize the Better Business Bureau badge and what it means
  • 8 out of 10 customers say it influences their buying decision
  • About 270,000 visitors search the BBB every 12-months 

Long story short? Yelp and Google get far more traffic. But the weight of the BBB rating is heavier than the wild-wild-west of online user reviews. It lends instant credibility to your business.

Anja Smith

Anja Smith

Author & Speaker

Anja is the creator, writer, and speaker at Tradebiz Toolbox. She has a long and storied history with small business development but cut her teeth on the contractor industries in her family's plumbing company.