Four Myths of BBB

Fact Myth Tablet Means Correct Or Incorrect Information

There are plenty of urban legends out there, meant to entertain you with their mystery and spookiness. There’s the one that warns to never flash your headlights at a car who has theirs off and there’s always some tale of a man with a hook.

There are even some myths about the Better Business Bureau. Let’s take a look at some of the most common myths associated with BBB.

BBB is a government agency

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The Better Business Bureau is not affiliated with any government agency. It is actually a not-for-profit organization focused on advancing marketplace trust. It was established in 1912 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since then BBB has grown to include 112 BBB locations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Learn more about what BBB does by watching the 90 second “Why We Are Here” video.

BBB is for consumers only

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BBB prides itself on helping consumers make smart choices when searching for a business. One of our goals is to help consumers identify trustworthy businesses and those that aren’t. However, we also do a lot for businesses, whether they are accredited or not. We offer business reviews, mediation services, advertising opportunities, a business magazine and industry driven webinars. At least three of those services are available to non-accredited businesses. Learn more about what we offer by visiting bbb.org/northwest.

BBB only reports complaints

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Not true. We actually provide customer reviews as well. BBB Customer Reviews allow customers to post positive, negative or neutral reviews about organizations with which they have done business. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members before they are published online and reviewers, upon request, must be able to provide substantiation of the marketplace interaction. Write your customer review today by visiting our Customer Reviews page.

No one uses BBB

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Staying relevant is extremely important to BBB. That’s why we have an outreach program designed to inform both consumers and businesses about the organization. Did you know that every four seconds someone searches a business on bbb.org? In fact, nearly seven million customers visit BBB website each year looking for a company to hire. And 95 percent of consumers recognize the BBB Seal. What’s more, seven out of 10 customers prefer to do business with a BBB Accredited Business.

People know the BBB and when they need help learning about a business they oftentimes come to us.

So consider this one myth busted.

Consumer Sentinel Network Complaint Figures

Sign Scam Represents Rip Off And Scams

The Consumer Sentinel Network released its 2015 Data Book detailing more than 3 million consumer complaints in 2015. Better Business Bureau is one of more than a dozen leading data contributors to the data book.

In 2015 debt collection topped the list as the number one complaint category. Overall, complaints broke down as 40 percent fraud, 16 percent identity theft and 44 percent other types.

The following is a breakdown of complaints for states serviced by BBB Northwest. These figures are based on consumer complaints made from Jan. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2015.

ALASKA

There were a total of 3,613 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints. Of that there were 2,917 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaints by Alaska consumers were:

  1. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (Complaints: 707; Percentage: 24%)
  2. Imposter Scams (Complaints: 627; Percentage: 21%)
  3. Debt Collection (Complaints: 184; Percentage: 6%)
  4. Shop-At-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 144; Percentage: 5%)
  5. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 140; Percentage: 5%)
  6. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 126; Percentage: 4%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 120; Percentage: 4%)
  8. Internet Services (Complaints: 85; Percentage: 3%)
  9. Foreign Money Offers & Counterfeit Check Scams (Complaints: 76; Percentage: 3%)
  10. Health Care (Complaints: 65; Percentage: 2%)

There were a total of 696 identity theft complaints from Alaska victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 707; Percentage: 58%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 627; Percentage: 12%)
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 43; Percentage: 6%)
  4. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 33; Percentage: 5%)
  5. Loan Fraud (Complaints: 15; Percentage: 2%)
  6. Employment-Related Fraud (Complaints: 11; Percentage: 2%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 135; Percentage: 19%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 30; Percentage: 4%)

IDAHO

There were a total of 8,678 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints. Of that there were 7,002 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaints by Idaho consumers were:

  1. Imposter Scams (Complaints: 1,519; Percentage: 22%)
  2. Debt Collection (Complaints: 937; Percentage: 13%)
  3. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (Complaints: 653; Percentage: 9%)
  4. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 554; Percentage: 8%)
  5. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 445; Percentage: 6%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 364; Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 322; Percentage: 5%)
  8. Internet Services (Complaints: 201; Percentage: 3%)
  9. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users (Complaints: 193; Percentage: 3%)
  10. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 188; Percentage: 3%)

There were a total of 1,676 identity theft complaints from Alaska victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 1,021; Percentage: 61%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 174; Percentage: 10%)
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 97; Percentage: 6%)
  4. Loan Fraud (Complaints: 78%; Percentage: 5%)
  5. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 67; Percentage: 4%)
  6. Employment-Related Fraud (Complaints: 40; Percentage: 2%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 244; Percentage: 15%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 46; Percentage: 3%)

OREGON

There were a total of 25,468 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints. Of that there were 20,387 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaints by Oregon consumers were:

  1. Imposter Scams (Complaints: 4,743; Percentage: 23%)
  2. Debt Collection (Complaints: 3,212; Percentage: 16%)
  3. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 2,151; Percentage: 11%)
  4. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 1,518; Percentage: 7%)
  5. Prizes, Sweepstakes & Lotteries (Complaints: 1,383; Percentage: 7%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 903; Percentage: 4%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 750; Percentage: 4%)
  8. Internet Services (Complaints: 518; Percentage: 3%)
  9. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 492; Percentage: 2%)
  10. Credit Cards (Complaints: 432; Percentage: 2%)

There were a total of 5,081 identity theft complaints from Oregon victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 2,910; Percentage: 57%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 715; Percentage: 14%)
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 313; Percentage: 6%)
  4. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 280; Percentage: 6%)
  5. Employment-Related Fraud: (Complaints: 115; Percentage: 2%)
  6. Loan Fraud (Complaints: 82; Percentage: 2%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 800; Percentage: 16%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 191; Percentage: 4%)

MONTANA

There were a total of 5,473 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints. Of that there were 4,572 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaints by Montana consumers were:

  1. Imposter Scams (Complaints: 1,157; Percentage: 25%)
  2. Prizes, Sweepstakes & Lotteries (Complaints: 653; Percentage: 14%)
  3. Debt Collection (Complaints: 621; Percentage: 14%)
  4. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 385; Percentage: 8%)
  5. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 222; Percentage: 5%)
  6. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 178; Percentage: 4%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 126; Percentage: 3%)
  8. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 122; Percentage: 3%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 99; Percentage: 2%)
  10. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers & Report Users (Complaints: 77; Percentage: 2%)

There were a total of 901 identity theft complaints from Montana victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 544; Percentage: 60%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 122; Percentage: 14%)
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 48; Percentage: 5%)
  4. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 42; Percentage: 5%)
  5. Employment-Related Fraud (Complaints: 16; Percentage: 2%)
  6. Loan Fraud (Complaints: 15; Percentage: 2%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 133; Percentage: 15%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 137; Percentage: 4%)

WASHINGTON

There were a total of 45,307 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints. Of that there were 36,264 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaints by Washington consumers were:

  1. Imposter Scams (Complaints: 8,046; Percentage: 22%)
  2. Debt Collection (Complaints: 6,042; Percentage: 17%)
  3. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 3,620; Percentage: 10%)
  4. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 2,539; Percentage: 7%)
  5. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (Complaints: 1,845; Percentage: 5%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 1,580; Percentage: 4%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 1,529; Percentage: 4%)
  8. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 1,090; Percentage: 3%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 1,057; Percentage: 3%)
  10. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers & Report Users (Complaints: 1,000; Percentage: 3%)

There were a total of 9,043 identity theft complaints from Washington victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 4,158; Percentage: 46%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 1,665; Percentage: 18%)
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 623; Percentage: 7%)
  4. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 607; Percentage: 7%)
  5. Employment-Related Fraud (Complaints: 350; Percentage: 4%)
  6. Loan Fraud (Complaints: 186; Percentage: 2%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 1,821; Percentage: 20%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 402; Percentage: 4%)

WYOMING

There were a total of 3,001 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints. Of that there were 2,435 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaints by Wyoming consumers were:

  1. Imposter Scams (Complaints: 438; Percentage: 18%)
  2. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (Complaints: 399; Percentage: 16%)
  3. Debt Collection (Complaints: 341; Percentage: 14%)
  4. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 237; Percentage: 10%)
  5. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 140; Percentage: 6%)
  6. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 111; Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 95; Percentage: 4%)
  8. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 67; Percentage: 3%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 59; Percentage: 2%)
  10. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers & Report Users (Complaints: 54; Percentage: 2%)

There were a total of 566 identity theft complaints from Wyoming victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 321; Percentage: 57%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 80; Percentage: 14%)
  3. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 33; Percentage: 6%)
  4. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 22; Percentage: 4%)
  5. Loan Fraud (Complaints: 16; Percentage: 3%)
  6. Employment-Related Fraud (Complaints: 12; Percentage: 2%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 94; Percentage: 17%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 20; Percentage: 4%)

Oregon AG’s Office Puts Magazine Subscription Scam Out of Business

Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon State Attorney General
Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon State Attorney General

We received big news this week from the Oregon Attorney General’s Office when Ellen Rosenblum announced a $3 million settlement with Publisher’s Payment Processing.

According to the AG’s office, the White City company had operated a nationwide scam through a newspaper and magazine subscription ruse.

The numbers are staggering.

Better Business Bureau has received more than 800 complaints against the company within the last 3 years. These include sales and delivery issues as well as problems with service. The most common complaint was billing and collection issues. The volume of complaints, as well as the company’s failure to respond to many of them, have contributed to an F rating for the business.

Consumers told BBB they received bills from the company for magazines they already have subscriptions for, implying it was time for renewal. However, those consumers told us the subscriptions had not expired and they did not originally order from Publisher’s Payment Processing. What’s more, some consumers said the company claimed to have the lowest renewal fee, but they found they could get a better price if they ordered through their magazine’s publisher directly. Many told BBB that Publisher’s Payment Processing would charge a $20 processing fee just to cancel renewals.

The AG’s office says the settlement is not an admission of guilt, but Publisher’s Payment Processing will have to pay up to $500,000 in restitution to Oregon consumers who overpaid or did not receive their magazines. Service fees will also be refunded to Oregonians who have previously received refunds.

“This was a sophisticated operation that generated millions of dollars each year from consumers across the country who thought they were doing business with a reputable magazine or newspaper publisher, but were instead working with a company that made its money by scamming them,” Rosenblum said. “It’s a particular embarrassment to the legitimate Oregon business community when national companies based here don’t play by the rules. The only option was to shut them down—and we have.”

Read the complete Assurance of Voluntary Compliance here.

How to Respond Positively to Negative Feedback

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | freedigitalphotos.net

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, you’re lucky—but at some point, your business will be criticized. The Internet is pretty much a free-for-all of customer reviews, complaints and commentary.

Business owners often struggle to find the right words to craft a decent response. And some just don’t respond at all, which can be a huge mistake. When it comes to negative feedback that’s posted online, keep in mind that how you handle it is visible to the world. Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and may even give off the perception that you don’t care about your customers.

If and when you do receive negative feedback, you can turn it into an opportunity to regain the trust and respect of that customer, and you could win over some new customers, as well.

Be polite
It’s natural to want to defend your business, your employees or your products and services, but resist the urge. The customer may be in the wrong, but saying so will not help your public image. Never place blame on the customer, and never respond in an emotional, accusatory manner. Instead, step back and take a breath. Consider how the customer feels, and think about what you’d want to hear if you were in his place. Maintain a professional, polite disposition, but be careful not to sound robotic—people want to see that you’re genuine and compassionate.

Keep it short
It’s usually best to keep your response brief. Acknowledge the customer’s feedback, and invite them to discuss it at length with you over the phone or at your place of business. Going into too much detail in your public response is akin to airing dirty laundry. Consider a simple “We’re so sorry you had that experience with our company. We invite you to call our customer service desk if you’d like to talk more about the specifics of the situation.” It can go a long way toward making the customer feel heard, encouraging a real dialog and showing others that you give proper attention to unhappy customers.

See it as a learning opportunity
When you’re feeling criticized or even attacked, it can be difficult to see the value behind someone’s not-so-pleasant feedback. However, consider this: There are companies that pay big money to survey real people for insight on how to better themselves, and you just got it for free! The comments your business receives online are a kind of customer research, and you can benefit from it. Make note of any suggestions or questions that are mentioned in the comments, and seriously consider whether you can use this feedback to better your business.

To quote Winston Churchill, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Know when to walk away
You won’t be able to fix every problem and make everyone happy, and unfortunately, there are some people who derive pleasure from pushing your buttons. They don’t want your help; they just want to start an argument. On the Internet, this type of person is called a troll, and it is perfectly acceptable to ignore them.

How do you tell the difference between a real gripe and someone who just enjoys stirring the pot? Follow the steps above: Be polite, keep it short and try to find the value in the critique. If despite your best efforts they refuse to have a civil, productive discussion with you, it’s OK to let it go. Remember that everyone else will see how you handled the comments, and they’ll be impressed you kept your cool.

7 Ways to Research a Business Before Hiring Them

Image courtesy of Adamophoto | http://freerangestock.com/
Image courtesy of Adamophoto | freerangestock.com

Creating and launching a business website that looks completely legitimate takes about 30 minutes. But it takes less than five minutes for a consumer to get scammed by one of these rogue, “fly-by-night” websites that are here today and gone tomorrow—with your money.

Double-dealing “brick-and-mortar” businesses continue to exist as well, simply because most consumers aren’t sure how to begin researching a business before interacting with them.

Although the Internet harbors millions of scam artists who prey every day on unsuspecting consumers, the Web also provides portals through which anyone can perform a background check on virtually any business in the world.

7 Ways to Research a Business
  1. Search for a U.S. or Canadian business on Better Business Bureau’s website or call your local BBB. You’ll find a company’s rating (from A+ through F) along with a history of customer complaints. BBB also provides information about the services or products the business offers and whether government actions have ever been taken against the business. If the business is a BBB Accredited Business, that means the business has agreed to uphold BBB’s eight standards for trust.
  2. Contact your home or auto insurance agent for advice about directing to you dependable and professional businesses. Because insurance companies deal with a wide variety of commercial businesses, your agent may be able to help you discover whether a business is exceptional or substandard.
  3. Every U.S. business is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission, a government organization whose goal is to protect consumers from unfair trade practices and other unethical business activities. On the FTC website, you can search for news about a particular company relevant to your research. Likewise, the American Bar Association oversees law firms and attorneys, while the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission standardizes financial entities.
  4. Search local, county and state civil and criminal court records for litigation cases containing the company’s name. Businesses that own property or have filed bankruptcy in the past may be included in country or state tax records if there is a lien against their property. Federal district and bankruptcy courts may also shed further light on the reputation of the business. In addition to running the company’s name through a search portal, checking the names of owners, co-owners and employees may also turn up interesting information pertinent to your research.
  5. Request a business credit/background report from Experian, Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet or LexisNexis. You will be charged a fee per report, but these are highly reputable services that are known to maintain accurate information on most businesses operating in the U.S.
  6. Don’t forget to check social media sites for potentially compelling information. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter may offer insights from other customers who have used the company. However, beware of review sites such as Yelp—what reviewers say about a business may be fueled by reasons more personal than business-related, which offers nothing helpful to your research. Take what’s said on those review sites with a grain of salt.
  7. If you don’t have the time or desire to do a comprehensive background search on a business, you can always hire a private detective or professional background check company that specializes in accessing lesser known databases and performing on-site investigations.
About Better Business Bureau
  • BBB is one of the best places to begin researching a business because of its easily navigable interface and the wealth of information provided by its database. In addition, businesses that are accredited by BBB and display BBB’s seal on their website or advertisements are favored by consumers over non-accredited businesses. In fact, 74% of consumers prefer to do business with BBB Accredited Businesses, as stated in a Roper survey.
  • A BBB Accredited Business maintains adherence to stringent BBB standards that include consistently applying ethical business practices to all facets of the company, protecting customer privacy, using honest advertising strategies and remaining as transparent as possible to customers.

Taking the time to research a business before hiring them may save you a lot of money, stress and time lost pursuing a potentially lost cause.

7 Tips for Writing Good Online Reviews [Infographic]

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Go to bbb.org to write a customer review today!

Aim for a Hassle-Free Move with BBB’s Tips

movingmonthMoving is never easy. In fact, it can be a real hassle, especially on a fixed budget. I’ve done it at least a dozen times since I graduated college, moving all across the country. And while I consider myself a savvy consumer, I have made a few big mistakes along the way.

Some of the worst moving stories I’ve heard, however, happened while I was working as a TV news reporter.

I remember interviewing a family who moved to the Seattle area from the Midwest and literally had their personal belongings held hostage by the moving company. The family was verbally quoted one price and then charged more mid-trip. Unable to pay, the movers held on the family’s belongings and starting charging them daily for storage costs.

Eventually law enforcement got involved, but that wasn’t until six months after the family had already moved. They were living in an empty apartment and sleeping on their clothes. They chose to go with movers who quoted them a low a price, and they never got anything in writing—and they learned a tough lesson from that experience.

Sadly, rogue movers are everywhere, giving the industry as a whole a black eye. In March, Better Business Bureau teamed up with the Oregon Department of Transportation in an undercover sting operation where law enforcement busted several illegal movers.

Then for National Moving Month in May, BBB worked with the Washington State Utilities & Transportation Commission to issue a news release with safe moving tips.

Within 24 hours of sending out that release, BBB and UTC appeared on local TV news programs 26 times, reaching an estimated 250,000 households. Each time, consumers were urged to check bbb.org first to find movers they can trust.

Before a customer even packs a box, BBB and UTC offer the following tips for hiring a moving company:

  • Contact the UTC to confirm the company has a valid permit and inquire about any consumer complaints. Call 888-333-9882 or visit utc.wa.gov/movingtips.
  • Check with BBB to find out the company’s rating and determine if there are any complaints filed against them. Start at bbb.org/search.
  • Be sure to receive a free written estimate—moving companies are required to provide one.
  • Get estimates from at least three different companies and do not make a decision based on price alone.
  • Finally, do not sign any incomplete documents. Make sure all forms are as complete as possible.

The bottom line: moving can be hassle-free if you take the time to research businesses and get everything writing. Remember that estimates are only educated guesses, but final prices can vary depending on the actual services performed. From what I’ve seen, most problems arise from disagreements about estimates, liabilities or damages.

If you have an issue with a moving company that you just can’t resolve on your own, file a complaint with BBB and the appropriate government agency.

Heaven forbid you ever have an experience like the Seattle family I interviewed—but if you do, call law enforcement immediately.

Red Bull Loses $13 Million in False Advertising Settlement

According to a lawsuit, RedBull’s “advertising and marketing is not just ‘puffery,’ but is instead deceptive and fraudulent and is therefore actionable.”

BBB gives high priority to truth in advertising—we believe consumers should be able to accept ads at face value to use as part of their buying decisions. We challenge misleading or deceptive ads based on national guidelines (see go.bbb.org/akorww-advertising). Our goal is to foster honest advertising and self-regulation in the marketplace.

Watch Your Buck | Blog for BBB serving the Heart of Texas

ID-100249810“Red Bull Gives you wings….” Not so much, according to the courts. Energy drink company Red Bull GmbH has agreed to pay out more than $13 million to settle a class action lawsuit that alleges false advertising. The settlement includes millions of individuals who have purchased Red Bull energy drinks over the last 10 years.

Consumers who purchased one or more Red Bull energy drinks between Jan. 1, 2002 and Oct. 3, 2014 are entitled to a $10 cash refund or $15 worth of Red Bull products (shipping costs will be covered by the company). If you, or someone you know, have purchased a Red Bull energy drink over the last 10 years, please visit the attached link to file your claim: http://energydrinksettlement.com/claim. Proof of purchase is not required. The claim form deadline is March 2, 2015.

NOTE: The site to file a claim seems to have gone down, likely…

View original post 507 more words

The Value of Customer Reviews

Image courtesy of Mister GC | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

When you shop online, how do you get reassurance that you will receive what you pay for?

When you peruse business directories or yellow pages, how do you narrow down your choices? Do you read any customer reviews before deciding to do business with someone?

Chances are that you do, which means your potential customers are also looking up your company’s reviews before choosing you.

I am borderline obsessive about researching a company before forking over my money. Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Facebook, Google — I examine the reviews on every site I can think of.

Nobody is perfect, and running a business can be tricky, so I’m not immediately deterred if I find a complaint or an unhappy review. Rather, I consider whether the company responded, and if they politely resolved the issue. I scan through the positive reviews and ask myself if they sound legitimate, keeping in mind that there may be unscrupulous companies who pay for compliments to boost their reputation. I put a lot of effort into finding a company I can trust.

While I admit that my methods could be a bit excessive, studies show that most people do read reviews. According to a 2013 survey by BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses; this is up from 76 percent in 2012. The same survey also found that 73 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more, which is up from 58 percent just one year prior.

I have no doubt that these numbers will continue to increase in the coming years. As a business, it is important to learn how to use customer reviews to your advantage.

First, understand why reviews are significant. Consumers can learn the basics about your services by looking at your website or advertisement, but reading testimonials and good reviews can compel consumers to actually consider doing business with you.

“Customer reviews provide credibility to my business,” says life coach Dave Shepp, owner of Beaverton-based Potential in Everyone. “People can read the information on my website describing my coaching methods and how I help people who are stuck, but only when they see my customer reviews do they know that I can talk the talk and walk the walk.”

“We get into many doors other competitors do not, simply because of our public review,” says Joseph Taylor, member of PDX Renovations LLC in Beavercreek.

Next, don’t be afraid to actively invite your satisfied customers to post a review. For example, a dentist’s office could include a notecard that says, “Please rate us at BBB.org,” along with the complimentary toothbrush and dental floss they give to patients. A hotel could have business cards at its front desk listing a few sites where guests could leave reviews. An online retailer could offer a discount on a future purchase to customers who post a positive review.

“Make sure you ask for the customer review from your client,” Shepp says. “They are generally more than willing to go on your site to leave a review about your service or product.”

Finally, display your reviews prominently on your website or even in your office. Because there are a multitude of review sites on the Internet, it could be nearly impossible for a potential customer to find every single one of your positive reviews. Make it easier for them by compiling a list of all the sites where you are reviewed and featuring it on your website; this will allow visitors to check out your complete online reputation with just one or two clicks. Consider printing out your favorite reviews to display on a bulletin board in your lobby or next to your register.

“We’re pretty confident in our reviews, so we are always happy a client or potential client does their homework,” Taylor says. “We feel with our reputation, it gives us a leg up on the competition.”

Customer reviews can drive your business to success. Are you making the most of them?


Remember to encourage your customers to submit a review at BBB.org about their positive experience with your company. And you can trust that BBB verifies each review before it is published.

5 Steps to Managing Complaints

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.

Let’s be honest: No one enjoys receiving a complaint.

However, as a business owner, managing negative feedback in a positive way is essential for growth and improvement. The poor handling of a customer’s grievance can be one of the easiest ways to destroy an otherwise impeccable reputation.

It would be simple to dismiss a complaint by saying, “You can’t please everyone,” or, “It’s just one customer.” But don’t make that mistake! Consider these facts:

  • For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 others have remained silent, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • Customers tell an average of nine people about good experiences, but tell 16 people about poor experiences, according to a 2011 American Express survey.
  • More than 90 percent of unhappy customers will not willingly do business with you again, according to Lee Resources.
  • However, nearly 95 percent of customers will give your business a second chance if you handle their complaint promptly and successfully, according to the Jim Moran Institute.

These statistics demonstrate that complaints — and how you handle them — do matter to your business.

A recording of a phone call with an internet provider recently went viral as a prime example of how not to treat a dissatisfied customer. So what is it you ought to do when your business receives a complaint?

1. Acknowledge

Perhaps most importantly, never ignore a complaint. Treat the customer with genuine respect and take the issue seriously. Empathy and a sincere willingness to listen will go a long way toward making the customer feel validated and appreciated.

It can be difficult to successfully resolve a complaint on social sites such as Twitter or Yelp; in those cases, direct the customer to a medium where you can help resolve the matter, such as your direct e-mail address or phone number.

2. Apologize

Say you’re sorry. This is not an admission of guilt — it is common courtesy, and it’s what every customer wants to hear.

If the customer is being unreasonable or rude, don’t respond in a demeaning or dismissive manner. Instead, remain calm and positive and don’t take the matter personally. Oftentimes, if you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, you’ll realize that you would be just as upset as he or she is.

After apologizing, refocus away from the emotions and get to the situation at hand by asking how you might help resolve the issue. Keep in mind that problems are opportunities to rebuild trust.

3. Analyze

Complaints often contain insight. Listen to the customer’s feedback and let him or her educate you. The customer should be part of the solution, not viewed as part of the problem.

Next, ask clarifying questions. Before you can resolve the complaint, you must understand exactly what went wrong and what the customer wants. If it’s not clear what he or she is seeking, involve the customer in your resolution decision-making through phrases such as, “What do you think would be fair?”

4. Act

Time is of the essence. An unhappy customer wants the problem to be fixed immediately, so responding to him or her with a resolution is a priority.

If it’s not possible to remedy the situation right away, explain the steps you will take and give the customer a timeframe.

On occasion, a customer may be in the wrong, or the problem is a result of his or her own misunderstanding. In those cases, politely inform or correct the customer without placing blame or criticizing. If you go about this graciously, the customer will be empowered by the knowledge you impart on him or her.

5. Appreciate

Invite the customer to verify that you have resolved the issue. Even if it is obvious that the situation has been corrected, the customer will appreciate the fact that you care enough to follow up.

Express your sincere appreciation to the customer for giving you the opportunity to understand and remedy the situation. This will ensure the interaction ends on a positive note.