Is the Better Business Bureau still appropriate for consumers in the era of almost immediate response on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram?
For more than 110 years, the bureau has been set up to build trust between consumers and businesses, and still says its services are in demand. The North Central Texas office had more than 4,295,021 inquiries on its website last year, with more than 62,353 complaints processed. Of these complaints, 90% were resolved.
But many young users simply go to Twitter, Instagram or other social media to express their complaints publicly. Within seconds, their answers can be seen by corporate social media teams monitoring traffic.
And some companies – even well-known ones – are no longer bothering to join the BBB.
Take Texas’ favorite, Buc-ee’s. The grocery store heated up in April due to the collection of 100 complaints from the BBB since 2006 – a seemingly small number considering the thousands of people who stop every day in the huge stores and the gas station chain.
However, the BBB disclaims responsibility on its website, which states that Buc-ee’s no longer responds to complaints filed with the agency, which launched in 1912.
“At the store level, our managers are empowered to make decisions,” Jeff Nadalo, Buc-ee’s chief adviser, said in an email in April. “We choose not to mediate through the BBB or other social media platforms. As we have learned, most of the complaints on social media are untrue. We believe that good old-fashioned face-to-face resolution is the best option for us. ”
The same goes for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, which says it works directly with disgruntled customers.
The carrier ranked 1.14 out of five stars for customer reviews and received an F rating on the Better Business Bureau website and chose no longer to be a member of the agency. “We do not respond to customers through the BBB, as stated on their website,” a Southwest spokesman said in an email. “Rather, we respond directly to customers.”
David Beasley, vice president and chief operating officer of BBB Dallas, says what sets the Better Business Bureau apart is its core services. It is the first human, the second technology company, whose dispute resolution services are provided by real people who check whether the company has treated the consumer fairly, Beasley said.
“You can scream in this black hole, but this company will not help you try to find a solution to your problem,” Beasley said. “So this is where BBB has really put pressure on the market and is still able to provide direct help to consumers.
The North Central Texas Office of Better Business employs more than 45 people in its Elm Street office, which serves 29 counties in Texas, 5.6 million users and 120,000 businesses. The base rate for a business to join the BBB is $ 500 a year, according to Beasley. As a 501C-6 organization, the Better Business Bureau relies heavily on membership fees, which vary depending on the size of the business.
The BBB’s audience is consumers who reach a stage in their lives where they “buy a house or a pool or a really expensive renovation,” Beasley said. “Then whether a business will leave you at a high level or not, it becomes more and more important for you. So it’s no big shock that an 18-year-old may not know what the Better Business Bureau is. But this does not mean that we do not have to orient ourselves to meet the needs of the market.
Monica Horton, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau for North Central Texas, said that in an internal BBB survey, 88% of consumers who had heard of the BBB were more likely to buy from an A + or A business.
She said the agency is closely monitoring complaints filed on its website. “We are doing our best to try to confirm and confirm that the person who submitted the review is in fact a customer of the company,” Horton said.
Fraud is quite common and has been the focus of the agency recently, she said.
A real incident
Business professor Rajashri Srinivasan of the University of Texas at Austin says the network’s complaints came in 2009 with one major incident.
Then Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician, opened the box, holding his Taylor guitar, to find it completely destroyed after an airline flight.
He complained to United Airlines, but nothing came of it, so Carol posted a series of three YouTube videos entitled “United Breaks Guitars” about his $ 3,500 damaged guitar.
United Airlines reported a loss of 10% of its market value at the time. And while there is no evidence that the videos harmed United financially, they certainly did not help.
Srinivasan says social media has not really appeared before, as YouTube just debuted in 2005. Yelp’s complaints and Google’s reviews were not the norm.
Now younger users usually search for Twitter, Instagram or even TikTok when they want to complain in real time, Srinivasan said. She said companies monitor social media in different ways and try to respond to consumer complaints.
“Social media is the new platform for consumer complaints,” Srinivasan said. “The Better Business Bureau is something of a previous generation technology. It is unclear whether they will continue to be relevant in the next few years. “
The BBB says it’s not just for older users. In fact, online scams make it even more relevant, Horton said.
Many companies in North Central Texas still rely on the agency, including Dallas-based AT&T, which has an A + rating but only 1.11 out of five stars in the BBB’s consumer rankings.
“Our mission at the Better Business Bureau is a market where buyers and sellers can trust each other,” Horton said. “That’s our goal.”
The Arlington-based Six Flags Corp. has an A + rating but only 1.08 out of 5 stars for user reviews. The company has closed 1,282 complaints in the last three years, according to the BBB’s website.
His top priority is to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, said Brad Malone, marketing and communications manager at Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor.
“The Better Business Bureau is one of the largest third-party review sites, enabling our guests to send valuable feedback,” Malone said. “It also provides us with a neutral platform for solving problems directly with our guests.”
And the BBB says it’s aimed at the latest generation of users. Horton said 15- to 24-year-olds are more susceptible to fraud.
“Older people are what people think because the losses are usually bigger, but buying online was our scam, followed by cryptocurrency,” Horton said. “These are all scams targeting this demographic.”
Fraud and counterfeit advertising are two areas the BBB is fighting over, Beasley said. The agency also works with search engine optimization and site traffic to ensure that users can see business ratings as soon as they search for a business.
“We make sure our technology is at the point where once a consumer needs us, they can find us,” Beasley said.