By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor
BBB Business Reviews have been a mainstay of Better Business Bureau’s services for years, providing consumers with valuable information about a company and how it resolves any complaints on its record.
Until recently, however, the reviews lacked positive feedback from consumers or other customer experience interactions. That all changed in January, when BBB began accepting customer reviews.
More than 500 comments from customers have flowed in over the last few months, and the vast majority have been positive, said Brandy Bold, BBB’s company response administrator. Bold screens all reviews before they’re published.
Accredited Businesses ranging from tiny companies with a few employees to Veterans United Home Loans, a large mortgage company based in Columbia, Mo., have embraced customer reviews as a way to cement the trustworthy impression their firms gain from BBB Accreditation.
“I think it’s great,” said Robert Bynum, owner of Like New Construction, based in St. Louis County. “When we finish a job, we ask customers to submit reviews.”
Steve Heilig, owner of Superior Construction in Imperial, Mo., said he believes customer reviews have “a huge value” that can give him an advantage when he’s trying to win a consumer’s business. One client told Heilig that the reviews helped him make up his mind to hire Superior.
Heilig began asking clients to submit reviews shortly after BBB began accepting consumer reviews in January. He says he’s had no resistance from consumers he asked to submit reviews, and all of the reviews received to date have been positive.
“More times than not, we’re going to have a positive review,” Heilig said. Most of his business comes from referrals by satisfied customers, he said. Good reviews “tell you that we were professional, we showed up on time and we did good work.”
Patty Vergano, owner of County Cottage Realty, agrees that good reviews can boost business among customers looking for companies on BBB’s website. But she said companies have to actively solicit reviews from happy customers.
“I think most people people don’t write a review unless you ask them to,” Vergano said. “I try to make it a practice – to ask customers to write a review if it was a positive experience.”
She also responds to the reviews, thanking customers for their responses.
“Wow! You just made my day,” she wrote one reviewer.
Kenneth Miller, president and owner of Classic Buildings LLC in Linn, Mo., said he believes the jury is still out on the ultimate value of customer reviews, but he expects their value to grow as more reviews are posted.
“I expect them to be highly valuable,” said Miller, whose company makes and installs portable storage buildings across the southern half of Missouri.
He began corresponding with customers soon after BBB began accepting the reviews. If they were happy, he sent them an email with a link to BBB’s customer review page. (http://www.bbb.org/stlouis/customer-reviews)
“People like seeing us on the Better Business Bureau website,” Miller said. “They trust us because of that,” Miller said. The reviews “would really add to that.”
Veterans United Home Loans has added a request for customer reviews to the survey it sends to customers after they close on their homes, said Matt Polsky, client experience manager for the company.
“We try to ask almost everyone,” Polsky said. “We want our visitors to know who we are.”
“The BBB is such a reputable organization that it really benefits us to be associated with it,” Polsky said. Younger consumers really look for reviews when they’re looking for a business to patronize. “They more reviews they see, the better.”
Polsky said consumers value “real reviews,” those that illustrate the experience a consumer had with a company. “People really enjoy hearing reviews about the consulting experience – about how much their loan officer helped them.”
Unlike some review sites, BBB verifies reviews. BBB’s Bold reads each review before it is published and asks the company to verify that the consumer is actually their customer. BBB also gives the company a chance to respond to the review.
“If the company says the consumer is not their customer, we send the consumer a letter asking for proof that they are a customer of the business,” Bold said. “If they send us proof, we post the review.” Most reviews are posted within 10 days. Reviewers must provide a valid email address, but their identity isn’t published.
Veterans United’s Polsky said the company has had a better response rate for reviews on BBB’s website than on other review sites.
“The biggest thing,” Polsky said, is that “people love to express their opinion.
“The more transparent you are, the more people will trust you,” he said.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Torchlight, BBB’s magazine for Accredited Businesses and Accredited Charities.