Back in November it was released that the BBB (Better Business Bureau) was going to roll out a customer review system http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/11/better-business-bureau-customer-reviews.html.
I was waiting to write about this one until I had a bit more information. This morning while scoping out places to stay for a friend visiting the Boston area, a lodging’s BBB customer review popped up in Google search. So I thought it might be time to revisit.
It appears from looking at some of the reviews out there that the customer review ability has been around on select businesses in certain areas going back to 2011, I gather this was part of their “beta testing”.
While it looks like the customer review option is not yet out to everyone, it appears to be being rolled out by area. Newport, RI for example looks like it has the customer review option enabled for all businesses located in the area. (I didn’t look at all categories so it’s an assumption based on looking at about a dozen options) and Boston, MA as well. I don’t recall seeing this option several months ago, so I am going to guess it’s a recent option. Not all large areas have this enabled yet, Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA does not, but Bangor, ME and surrounding areas does for example.
This isn’t anything for B&Bs and other lodging to panic about, but it’s definitely something to keep on their radar, as I know several lodging people in ME, MA and RI who do have the option enabled on their BBB business listings, and they may not be aware of it. If the reviews are showing up in web search results, even more of a reason to keep an eye on.
I had a chat discussion last November with a customer service rep from the BBB and this is what I managed to glean from it:
The article from Small Biz Trends mentions that all reviews are verified. The BBB rep told me that the business is notified and has to verify that the customer/guest was an actual customer/guest.
She also said that a business could respond to the review and that the business did not have to be a paid member of the BBB to do so.
There is more to this, the BBB agent kind of danced around questions, so I still have some unanswered questions about the whole process.
This is a transcript of the conversation, as you can see we went around in circles for a bit. But supposedly it tracks IP addresses (similar to Yelp and Tripadvisor.) I bolded and underlined the text that I think might be of interest to lodging. And yes I am Hale, old nickname from CIA.
Robin: Hello Hale Turner. How may I help you?
Hale Turner: Am reading http://smallbiztrend…s-bureau-customer-reviews.html am wondering how you are verifing the reviews
Robin: We verify all email addresses, and reach out to the business as well
Hale Turner: how are you verifying the reviewers though
Robin: what way do you mean
Hale Turner: how do you know the reviewers are real people?
Robin: Thats why we reach out to the business for there input.
Hale Turner: so http://www.bbb.org/b…vers-ma-95061/Customer-Reviews for example, all the people who wrote reviews the business is verifying they are real people??
Hale Turner: and they would know how???
Robin: because they would have information if they have had any marketplace interaction
Hale Turner: and so if someone wrote a negative review and the company says its a competitor or former disgruntely employee how would they prove that it was so or not
and a company could technically make up a customer or two and say they were customers and have positive reviews written, how do you verify that?
Robin: BBB does not handle any employee or employer issues, there is also verification of URLs so a business can not file there own review
Hale Turner: verification of urls or IP addresses?
Hale Turner: ok, ““If a consumer cannot prove he or she is a real customer, we will not publish the review … it’s as simple as that.”” so a business can simply deny that who ever wrote a review is a customer, no? and can a business respond to a review?
Robin: Yes they do
Hale Turner: how do they go about doing that, do they have to be a paid member?
Hale Turner: so the earlier question, a business can deny a reviewer was a customer?
Hale Turner: and also “The BBB does not handle any employee or employer issues,” so if someone has a dispute about a review, related to an am employee issue how is that expected to be handled?
Robin: You can call me at 508-652-4868
Hale Turner: So in answer, call the BBB to dispute?
I am just doing information gathering for this, I don’t have any BBB issues to resolve
Hale Turner: so call to dispute?
Robin: call if you need any more help
Hale Turner: can you answer that one please though?
Robin: if its regarding a employee that works for the business we would have to review what the nature is.
Hale Turner: and a business would do that by calling their local BBB correct?
Robin: At this point you would need to call our office with any more queastions
Hale Turner: you for some help but its a shame you can’t answer that question without my having to call
Robin: what was the last question if you have an issue with someone that works for a certian business
Hale Turner: if a competitor posted a review, how do you go about disproving it, that one?
Robin: Again it would be us reaching out to the business and having feed back from them
Im sorry but any more questions you would need to call in.
You have been transferred to: Kristen.
Hale Turner: Hi Kristen, why did she transfer me to you if you’all want me to call with anymore questions, or can you answer them?
Kristen: I am not sure why , was she able to answer your question ?
Hale Turner: I had two questions that she could not or would not answer. One was if a review was written by a competitor how does a business dispute it and two same question but review written by a disgruntled former employee All I was asking was how does a biz dispute a review, a phone call to the BBB or is there some other action that a business has to take
Kristen: reviews are verified by url and ip address then we send the business a notification also which they can verify if you are a business disputing a review , you can contact bbb by phone or email
Hale Turner: thats all I needed an answer to, for some reason she would not confirm that a business needed to call. Thank you for your time.
My apologies for the whole thing, but thought it was interesting to not really get a straight answer at first. And as I said, I still have some unanswered questions. If the BBB happens to read this and would like to clarify anything that their customer service people did or did not I would be happy to include it. And to whomever Robin is at the BBB, I apologize for being kind a pain in the rear.
What I get out of this is that a business can dispute a review (something I wish Tripadvisor and Yelp would do better in a perfect world) whether this is actually doable or not I guess some intrepid soul would have to go ahead and contact some lodging facilities (of which there were more then a few with negative reviews) to see whether the BBB did in fact contact them that a negative review was posted, etc. etc. I am not doubting that they did, but it would be nice to find out from the businesses side how the actual process works from soup to nuts. Do they get a phone call first then a email? What kind of timeframe are we talking about, is there follow up? yada yada yada.
This is also of note, when a reviewer goes to write a review, a check mark has to be placed next to this in order for the review to process. (again items of note bolded and underlined).
I certify that this Customer Review is my genuine opinion of this business formed from my personal marketplace interaction with the business, and that I have no personal or business affiliation with this business, and have not been offered any incentive or payment originating from the business to write this review. By submitting this Customer Review, I am representing that it is a truthful account of my experience as a customer of with the business. I acknowledge my understanding that this Customer Review, along with my contact information, will also be sent to the business. I understand that customer reviews are not used in the calculation of the BBB Rating. I understand that if I file a complaint with BBB on this business that my customer review on this business will not be posted. I understand that I may only post a review about an interaction that occurred within the past 1,095 days (3 years). I also understand that my review will only be posted for 1,095 days (3 years). I understand that the text of my Customer Review will be publicly posted on the BBB website (BBB reserves the right to not post in accordance with BBB policy). Please do not include any personally identifiable information in describing your Customer Review. BBB does not accept anonymous reviews. BBB may edit your Customer Review to protect privacy rights and to remove inappropriate language.
As I said earlier, I don’t think lodging should have a cow about this, but definitely something to keep on the radar for the future. If any lodging facilities have had any experience dealing with this so far, would love some input.