Deciding whether to get BBB accredited is an easy choice for some small business owners but others have questions. Is it worth the fee? What value does it really bring?
Deciding whether to obtain BBB accreditation can be a straightforward decision for some small business owners, while others grapple with uncertainties. Some question the tangible benefits against the cost of the fee. How much value does it truly deliver?
As we will delve into further, achieving accreditation from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) comes with a myriad of strategic advantages.
It elevates your brand’s credibility, fostering public trust, and serves as a beacon, drawing new customers towards your business.
The blue and white BBB logo, a seal of assurance, is a symbol you’ve likely come across in your encounters with businesses. Enterprises proudly display this seal for a singular reason: the public tend to instill their trust in a BBB accredited business more readily.
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This seal functions as a guiding light for consumers, helping them distinguish credible, responsible businesses from irresponsible scams and unsteady, transient operations.
Nevertheless, this right to display the BBB seal is not given without merit; businesses must navigate and complete the accreditation process to earn this privilege.
This article aims to shed light on how this accreditation process unfolds, the inherent value it imbues, and the steps towards securing BBB accreditation.
What Does the Better Business Bureau Do?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB), established in 1912, holds many responsibilities, one of the crucial ones being to serve as a central information nexus between businesses and the public.
The Bureau’s vision is for an “ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other,” fostering a space where fair and honest transactions can thrive.
The BBB is structured as a parent organization named the International Association of Better Business Bureaus. Beneath this umbrella exist approximately 100 independently-incorporated local entities spanning across the US, Canada, and Mexico.
The BBB also maintains a non-profit arm, the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, dedicated to promoting ethical business standards. Among other key activities:
- The BBB maintains a directory of over 5 million business profiles where consumers can research a business.
- Consumers can file complaints, and the BBB gives companies a way to respond. The BBB offers mediation and arbitration to help resolve disputes.
- Consumers who verify their identity can leave reviews about vendors on the BBB website.
- The Better Business Bureau rates businesses from A+ to F, based on a 17-point scale.
- The BBB provides a designation called “accreditation” for select companies.
What Does BBB Accreditation Mean?
BBB business accreditation signifies that your firm has successfully fulfilled the BBB’s stipulated requirements and has been officially granted accreditation status.
This entails filling out an application form, supplying the requisite information, allowing a thorough review of your business operations, and adhering to the BBB’s rigorous standards.
Businesses that attain accreditation must also remit a fee and ensure its renewal on an annual basis. Upon completion of these steps, a BBB accredited business gains access to exclusive marketing privileges, along with other advantageous provisions.
The Impact of BBB Accreditation
Credibility and Trust:
- BBB accreditation is a signal to your customers that your business is committed to ethical practices and customer satisfaction. This enhanced credibility can be a deciding factor for customers choosing between competitors.
- The BBB’s dispute resolution services offer a neutral platform to address customer complaints, which can help maintain positive customer relationships and protect your business’s reputation.
Visibility and Differentiation:
- Accredited businesses are listed in the BBB’s online directory, which can improve your business’s online visibility. This listing is often considered more credible than other online directories due to the BBB’s stringent accreditation standards.
- Displaying the BBB seal on your website and marketing materials can distinguish your business in a crowded marketplace. This distinction can be particularly beneficial in industries where trust and credibility are paramount.
Evaluating the Investment
- While there is a cost associated with BBB accreditation, it’s important to weigh this against the potential benefits in terms of increased trust, customer confidence, and potential business growth.
- Consider the nature of your business and your target market. If your customer base values credibility and ethical business practices highly, the ROI on BBB accreditation could be significant.
Aligning with Business Values:
- Accreditation aligns your business with the BBB’s Standards for Trust, which can serve as a framework for maintaining high ethical standards in your business operations.
- This alignment can enhance your business’s internal culture by fostering a commitment to fairness, transparency, and customer satisfaction.
Leveraging BBB Resources
- The BBB provides various resources, including webinars and workshops, to help businesses enhance their operations and customer service. These educational opportunities can be valuable for continuous improvement.
- Access to these resources is an added benefit of accreditation, providing you with tools and knowledge to grow and manage your business effectively.
Networking and Community Involvement:
- BBB events and forums provide opportunities to network with other accredited businesses, fostering community involvement and potential business collaborations.
- Participating in BBB initiatives can enhance your business’s local presence and visibility within the community.
Reflecting on Business Goals:
- Consider how BBB accreditation aligns with your long-term business goals. If building a reputation for trustworthiness and customer satisfaction is central to your business strategy, BBB accreditation can be a valuable asset.
- Reflect on your current customer feedback and market position. Accreditation might be the next step in elevating your business in the eyes of your customers and the broader market.
BBB Accreditation as a Marketing Tool:
- Utilize BBB accreditation in your marketing efforts to highlight your commitment to ethical practices and customer satisfaction. This can be a powerful tool in attracting new customers and retaining existing ones.
- Regularly communicate your BBB accreditation status through various channels, including social media, email newsletters, and on your website, to maximize its impact.
BBB accreditation can offer numerous advantages for businesses aiming to establish themselves as trustworthy and customer-oriented. It requires a commitment to maintaining high standards but can yield significant returns in customer trust, business reputation, and overall growth.
Why Get BBB Accreditation?
Accredited BBB businesses get several benefits, including:
Consumer Trust. Businesses get the right to associate their brand with the BBB brand, which is synonymous with trust. For example, accredited businesses can display the “BBB accredited business” logo on their front door, website and other places. Consumers look for this Seal.
Competitive Advantage. Accreditation is exclusive and differentiates your business from competitors. Around 400,000 businesses are accredited, according to the BBB website. When you consider that this number is less than 3% of all companies, it is easy to see how those that get accreditation stand out from peers.
Reputation Management. Accredited businesses get extra points toward their BBB rating. Ratings are separate from accreditation. But when a business puts itself through the accreditation process, the BBB is able to assess trustworthiness directly and may award a higher score.
Online Visibility. Your business gets its accreditation status noted in the BBB directory. A business can claim its online profile and add images, videos and other information. You may even get leads sent to your company.
Education and Information. The BBB offers webinars, newsletters and resources to help you run your business.
How to Get BBB Accredited
Application and Scrutiny
- The process of becoming BBB accredited involves a detailed review of your business practices. This scrutiny can help you identify areas for improvement in your operations and customer service.
- Preparing for accreditation can serve as an opportunity to fine-tune your business policies and practices, ensuring they align with the best industry standards.
Getting accredited is not hard for a reputable company, but you must apply. There are five steps for how to get BBB accreditation:
1. Check Your Eligibility
The first step is to make sure your business is eligible. You have to have been in business at least 6 months. Among other requirements, you must have:
- All licenses and bonding required for your industry.
- No government ethics violations.
- Compliance with all governmental and contractual obligations.
There are two ways to apply for accreditation. You can go to this page to the start the process.
An alternative way to apply is to get in touch with your local BBB office directly. As a proprietor of a small business, your interactions will primarily be with your local BBB office.
You can visit BBB.org and explore the BBB organizations operating in the US, Canada, and Mexico to identify the appropriate chapter for your geographical location.
Then, you can initiate the process via a call, an email, or by using the application form available on the website of the local chapter.
3. Provide Information
Accompanying your application, you’re required to provide certain critical details about your business. The list of information isn’t exhaustive, but its accuracy is of utmost importance.
Key facts such as your business’s official name, the registered address, the number of employees on your payroll, and other relevant details form the core of this data.
Ensuring precision in this phase is instrumental as it paves the way for a seamless review process and plays a pivotal role in the final verdict of your accreditation.
4. Undergo a Business Review
Following the submission of your application, the BBB chapter for your area will conduct an in-depth business review.
This review includes a public records check along with a thorough examination of other available information sources to gauge the level of trustworthiness and integrity of your business.
As part of this, the BBB may request a personal meeting or conduct an interview over the phone to garner more insights into your operations. This application is then put forward for review by the local BBB board of directors, a process that can stretch over several weeks.
The board, composed of individuals from the broader business community, convenes periodically. Given these factors, it’s prudent to expect the overall process to take at least 3 weeks.
5. Pay the Fee Upon Approval
Once your application has passed the stringent approval process, you are required to agree to the BBB’s specified terms. This includes the payment of the fee, also referred to as Accreditation Dues.
It’s essential to remember that this fee doesn’t guarantee a certain rating; rather, it’s directed towards covering the BBB’s overhead expenses.
These costs encompass processing applications and sustaining day-to-day operations within the Better Business Bureau organizations. As an entrepreneur, you understand that running an organization involves many operational costs – staff compensation, rent for the business premises, utility costs, and more.
After your application has been approved, a comprehensive welcome packet will be dispatched to you. This kit includes a Membership Certificate, a wide array of marketing materials, and an assortment of other helpful resources.
In addition, an email containing your login information for your new online profile will be sent to you, marking the commencement of your BBB accreditation journey.
- Once accredited, your business must adhere to the BBB’s standards and guidelines. This ongoing commitment requires a proactive approach to customer service and ethical business practices.
- Renewing your accreditation annually reiterates your commitment to these standards, reinforcing customer trust over time.
How Much Is the BBB Accreditation Fee?
For most small businesses, the accreditation fee will be in the hundreds of dollars. However, the fees depend on two factors: (1) your number of employees, and (2) your local BBB office’s fee schedule.
Each local BBB office has its own fee schedule, and most seem to fall within a 10% range of other chapters. A few local chapters put their fees online. For instance, the St. Louis office publishes the following fees:
|Number of Employees
|Accreditation Annual Fees
|1 – 3
|4 – 7
|8 – 10
|11 – 49
|50 – 99
|100 – 200
Check with your local chapter for the actual fees you would be charged. Payment plans are available to let you spread out the cost monthly or quarterly.
The same fee is charged annually for renewal. BBB fees are a business expense that qualifies as a small business tax deduction.
Little known fact: some local business bureaus occasionally offer discounts. For example, at the time of this writing, the South East Florida BBB is offering a limited-time discount along with 90 days of free online advertising.
What Types of Businesses is BBB Accreditation Best For?
BBB Accreditation holds potential benefits for any enterprise that engages with the public, regardless of its size or industry. This makes a broad spectrum of organizations eligible.
Although small businesses often form a substantial portion of accredited entities, local branches of larger conglomerates, such as banks, are not uncommon.
Businesses across diverse industries can seek accreditation, with exceptions being industries that are either unlawful, such as online casinos, or flagged by the BBB as intrinsically problematic, for instance, payday lenders.
Based on data from the West Florida BBB, the most inquiries from the public involve businesses like roofing contractors, A/C contractors, insurance companies, home builders, used car dealerships, general contractors, plumbers, pool companies, and collection agencies.
While this list is subject to regional variations, it offers a glimpse into the types of businesses where BBB accreditation significantly influences consumer decisions.
These businesses, in particular, might reap substantial benefits from accreditation.
Can Online Businesses Get BBB Accredited?
Indeed, online businesses are eligible to apply for and receive BBB accreditation. One might question the necessity, but the rationale is straightforward. In the digital age, establishing trust online is more critical than ever.
A study by Nielsen, quoted by the BBB, revealed that 60% of consumers consult the BBB before making online purchases, underscoring the importance of BBB accreditation for e-commerce ventures.
How Do I Find Out if a Business is BBB Accredited?
There are two primary methods to ascertain a business’s BBB accreditation. The first approach is to look for the dynamic BBB Accredited Business Seal on the company’s website.
This interactive software version of the BBB logo allows consumers to verify a business’s credentials with a simple click.
Alternatively, you can visit the BBB.org website and conduct a search for the business. The business profile will indicate whether the business is accredited.
If you struggle to find the business, ensure the correct spelling of the name. If the business profile is still absent, it signifies a lack of BBB accreditation.
Why is a Business Not BBB Accredited?
There could be a number of reasons a business does not have accreditation — and those reasons are not necessarily negative:
- The business simply may have decided not to apply or chosen not to renew.
- The company may have relocated and temporarily has no accreditation. That was our case here at Small Business Trends Media after we relocated the business to another state.
- A business may not be accredited due to being in an industry the BBB considers a scam or problematic.
- Accreditation also can be revoked. MyPillow famously had its status revoked and its rating downgraded, in part due to violations of the BBB’s advertising code.
What Are the BBB Standards of Trust?
The Better Business Bureau continuously supervises accredited businesses to ensure sustained adherence to eight foundational principles, collectively termed the Standards of Marketplace Trust.
These standards provide a roadmap for businesses seeking to maintain good standing and cultivate a positive reputation. They are as follows:
- Build Trust: Establish and maintain a positive track record in the marketplace.
- Advertise Honestly: Adhere to established standards of advertising and selling.
- Tell the Truth: Honestly represent products and services, including clear and adequate disclosures of all material terms.
- Be Transparent: Openly identify the nature, location, and ownership of the business, and clearly disclose all policies, guarantees, and procedures that bear on a customer’s decision to buy.
- Honor Promises: Abide by all written agreements and verbal representations.
- Be Responsive: Address marketplace disputes quickly, professionally, and in good faith.
- Guard Privacy: Protect any data collected against mishandling and fraud, collect personal information only as needed, and respect the preferences of consumers regarding the use of their information.
- Embody Integrity: Approach all business dealings, marketplace transactions, and commitments with integrity.
Adhering to these standards not only assists in maintaining BBB accreditation but also, and perhaps more importantly, they serve as excellent guiding principles for running any business.
These standards encourage ethical business practices that can help build a strong reputation and a loyal customer base.
Should I Get My Business Accredited?
You might wonder: is the Better Business Bureau worth it? The BBB is not without controversy. Over a decade ago I wrote about it, and was surprised by the response. Also, a few years back CNN wrote a series of negative articles, after which the organization said it made changes.
Yet, accreditation has value and I recommend it, especially for local small businesses that serve consumers. I have no financial interest in whether you get accreditation — or not. But here’s why it is important: a large proportion of the public places trust in the BBB.
If potential customers think BBB accreditation has value, then it is worthwhile. Because in the end, the customer is what matters.
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