By Kristina Lock, Vice President of Operations & Administration, Wisconsin BBB
I often get the question, “So, what do you do?” It’s not an unusual question, it’s actually quite typical. I just happen to have an atypical job. When I let my inquisitor know that I oversee operations at a statewide non-profit, the next inevitable question is “Who do you work for?”
I’ll be honest; this can be a cringe-worthy moment for me. When I respond “at the BBB”, I get only 3 types of responses:
- The Owl Response, “Who?”
- The Cheerleader Response, “I LOVE the BBB!”
- The Misinformed Response, “the BBB?!?! You guys are a bunch of crooks!”
Ah, to have to deftly handle each one these reactions. The Cheerleader is by far the easiest, ego-enhancing conversation to have. These are lovely people to speak with, who truly “get” what the BBB does and appreciate our services. They give you that feel-good feeling that makes you go home with a smile on your face at the end of the day.
The Owls are not too bad either. They just don’t know about the BBB. I’m happy to explain that the BBB was founded 100 years ago to help promote ethics in the marketplace. And, that the BBB is a resource someone can use to check on a company prior to doing business. As well, if consumers have a problem, they can file a complaint with our office and we will attempt to find a resolution agreeable to both parties. Owls usually thank me for the info and go on with life. Sometimes I hear from them again, sometimes I don’t.
The Misinformed are a bit more difficult. These types usually have preconceived notions about the BBB, and rarely are they good. Some have even had a bad experience with the BBB (we are human too, we admit we can make mistakes sometimes). These conversations typically become heated, and I more often than not, end up probing to find the reason for the misunderstanding. Some of the typical reasons:
- “I filed a complaint and you didn’t do anything about it.”
- “I have a bad rating because I’m not a member.”
Whenever these responses come up, I try and take them at face value and answer honestly. Maybe we didn’t help them when they filed a complaint; they’re probably right. But, that happens sometimes. We do not have legal powers, we are a non-profit, and ultimately our strengths lie in the information we can provide before doing business with a company. We have never guaranteed a resolution to a complaint, but we always try. However, some people feel that because a complaint is filed they should always receive 100% of what they want.
That’s not what our process is about. Instead, we want to see both sides come to the table and compromise to find a resolution. If all they wanted was 100% of their side, and were not willing to compromise to resolve the issue, then they probably did walk away disenchanted with our services. We’re sorry to see that happen, but we will not compromise our integrity to take sides. We’re not going to act as a consumer advocate, or as a business’ protector.
And, maybe a company does have a low rating, but that’s not because they’re not a member of the BBB. Both accredited (member) companies and non-accredited (non-member) companies can achieve up to an “A+” rating. However, an accredited business must stay above a “B” rating (yeah, that’s why you don’t find member companies with a bad rating – it’s not allowed); if they fall below a “B” rating they no longer meet their membership standards.
Whenever business owners tell me their rating is low because they refuse to be a member, I let them know quite firmly that’s not true. There is a whole host of other reasons why the rating might be low, but it’s not because they are not members. Our ratings formula has 17 factors that determine the rating, and if any of those factors are not met, it can have an adverse affect on a rating. No BBB employee can arbitrarily assign a specific rating to a company. Sorry, just doesn’t happen.
I am passionate about the BBB. I’ve worked at the BBB for nearly a decade, I’ve seen a lot of changes and heard a lot of stories, and I can say with the utmost honesty that the staff at the BBB is dedicated to the BBB’s mission and truly wants to help everyone we can. Just don’t tell me that the lawnmower repair you had done was poor because your lawnmower is slower mowing up a hill than mowing down a hill – I don’t like explaining the laws of physics, I wasn’t very good at that subject anyway.