A “Marketplace of Trust” Remains Priority #1 with Iowa BBB
We live in a time when everyone’s a critic all the time. Websites keep popping up that offer peer-to-peer reviews, letting us know where to eat, what to buy and who to call to get something fixed. But who to trust? What if that plumber complaint had nothing to do with the actual work? Perhaps the “reviewer” who set out to do some clothes shopping was just having a bad day and would never have been satisfied. Argument over dinner? That just might influence one’s review. With so many variables it’s hard to know who to trust when assessing a business. Fortunately, there remains one organization that has proven to be a trusted source of information for over 100 years: The Better Business Bureau (BBB).
The Iowa BBB is a non-profit organization that provides one objective vision for consumers and businesses in the state: “an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers trust each other.” Unlike most reviews this mandate, based on a strict set of well-tested standards, is free of outside variables. The BBB also encourages best practices through detailed consumer and business education programs. By focusing on the integrity and performance over time, the BBB is able to recognize exceptional businesses and identify businesses that exhibit substandard practices. When we see a Better Business Bureau seal on a storefront or service provider we know that the business has met the same rigorous set of standards as its competitors.
“Our mission is to advance marketplace trust,” says Cody Huizenga from the Des Moines office. “We steer consumers toward accredited, trustworthy businesses so that when there are complaints we work with consumers and businesses to try and resolve all issues.”
One need only look at the accreditation process to realize the Iowa BBB takes trust very seriously. Businesses are required to have been operational for at least six months, be fully licensed, free from government actions that may indicate poor business practices and meet all standards within the Accreditation Standards at all times. Businesses must also be free of unsatisfactory ratings and maintain at least a B rating from the local BBB office.
The Iowa BBB takes the guesswork out of our decisions as consumers. For example, the accreditation process requires honest advertising as well as a section titled “Tell the Truth,” an honest representation of products and services. Transparency is also a critical component of a BBB-accredited business. Each business is evaluated scrupulously and full disclosure to consumers is mandated, including everything from contract integrity to easy contact procedures to a clear and responsive refund policy. These expectations include web-based retail and services.
“Be Responsive,” “Safeguard Privacy,” “Embody Integrity” conclude the accreditation expectations, three components that have garnered plenty of headlines lately, albeit by companies that have failed to adhere to these basic tenets of marketplace trust. Think about how often you have heard about security breaches involving private data and information lately and you quickly realize the value of shopping in or hiring a BBB-accredited company.
The Iowa BBB adopts the national accreditation standards, however the mission of the non-profit organization rest solely in the communities across Iowa. Established in 1940, the BBB is able to serve Greater Iowa, Quad Cities and the Siouxland Regions with offices in Des Moines, Bettendorf and Cedar Rapids. Because of the organization’s national presence and legacy, this local focus is often overlooked by consumers looking for answers and advice on a daily basis.
“The general public doesn’t always realize that we are local,” confirms Laura Chavez from the Iowa BBB. “Our core group of staff here really cover the entire state of Iowa. So much of our work is very hands-on work, we are touching and talking to people on a daily basis, it’s not just some computer that they are talking to.”
The Iowa BBB advocates for consumers in multiple ways similar to peer-to-peer review websites, but with much more clout. Consumers may file a complaint about a business. The business in question is contacted within two days max and your thorough complaint process relating to marketplace issues is guaranteed to receive a response directly from the business within 14 days.
The BBB Scam Tracker has gained celebrity status among those of us who are inundated by illegal schemes if not downright fraud. The system allows us to type in keywords and learn instantly if a scam is being perpetrated. Current scams (totaling almost 125,000!) are also listed and identified geographically on an interactive map.
The BBB Auto Line is equally well known as a go-to source to file a complaint and resolve issues concerning auto warranties. There’s no need to hire a lawyer as the “Lemon Law” complaint process has proven to be among the most successful strategies for righting what historically has been a very marginal practice.
Finally, the Iowa BBB and its affiliates continue to work tirelessly to teach and empower consumers how to interpret bad and false advertising. Called the “BBB Ad Truth,” this interactive online resource includes a self-assessment to gauge your bad ad savvy, key elements in a typical misleading ad and the opportunity to report a bad or false ad.
“The BBB is not just some non-profit or organization that sits out there away from everybody else,” states Iowa BBB President Chris Coleman. “We’re a whole bunch of people who work here in our state who have a big heart and want to help people. We care about them and we want to make sure that things go their way. We stand with them and we want to help them.”
Most of us will quickly look up a peer-to-peer review of a business when making our consumer decisions. Yet these assessments result from the personal standards of each individual reviewer. The Iowa BBB gives each business a grade also, but their assessments are the results of an exacting set of unbiased standards over time, in other words, an objective and ultimately more useful appraisal. Adding the Iowa BBB grade to your list of opinions may just prove the best consumer decision you’ve made all day.