published Friday, January 20th, 2012

Winsett: Time-tested system gives inside picture of business

Jim Winsett

Q: When I check the BBB Business Review report on a business, the grade ratings vary. What factors influence and establish the grade on a business?

A: BBB provides reports on more than 4 million businesses, all online and free of charge at www.bbb.org. Letter grades are prominently displayed on business reports to help consumers more easily and quickly identify and compare the reliability of businesses.

Today, consumers want more than marketing spin or a few comments about a business posted on the Internet, and rightly so, because given tough economic conditions, they literally cannot afford to make bad buying decisions.

Now BBB’s improved reports provide detailed insight into a business’ track record and are based on time-tested standards, in-depth research and the millions of consumer complaints filed with BBB.

BBB’s proprietary ratings formula takes into account several grading elements using objective information and actual incidences of a business’s behavior that have been verified and evaluated.

Ultimately, a letter grade rating represents BBB’s degree of confidence that a business is operating in a trustworthy manner and will make a good faith effort to resolve any customer concerns.

Specific issues affecting a business’s rating are:

  1. Business complaint history with BBB

  2. Type of business

  3. Time in business

  4. Background information on business in BBB files

  5. Failure to honor commitments to BBB

  6. Licensing and government actions known to BBB

  7. Advertising problems known to BBB

Rating factors also take into account BBB’s due diligence as to whether business models and industries operate in violation of the law, misrepresent products and services and are likely to generate trade practice concerns or have high levels of customer dissatisfaction.

BBB assigns letter grades from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). BBB will not grade a business (indicated by an NR, or “no rating”) for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of the business’ file.

As part of its strategy to build trust in the marketplace, the “accredited” designation highlights the fact that businesses have been evaluated and have contractually agreed to meet and uphold BBB’s high standards for integrity and reliability when dealing with consumers.

Consumers want to do business with reliable companies; whether auto repair shops, home improvement contractors, mortgage counselors or online firms. BBB is celebrating its centennial anniversary and has been providing information people can trust for a 100 years.

Combining, BBB accreditation and letter-grade ratings are valuable resources where consumers can start with when they are looking for trustworthy businesses.

Importantly, consumers may start with BBB to evaluate businesses; however, it is always advisable to extend their due diligence into references from previous customers, friends or family, certifications and professional licensing requirements.

Both BBB accredited businesses and non-accredited businesses in BBB’s database receive a letter grade as part of their report. More information on BBB rating system is available at www.bbb.org.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.

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