» Does the Better Business Bureau Make Business Better?

This post written by Tim Chi, CEO of WeddingWire. Follow him on Twitter @wwtim. Tim first developed the concept of WeddingWire shortly after getting married in 2005 (to his lovely wife Tracey). As an experienced entrepreneur, Tim sought out to assemble a team and build a technology that would help both engaged couples and vendors in the wedding industry.

We recently came across this ABC News piece that was published in November 2010 about how a business can “pay” to have a better rating on the Better Business Bureau. Known as THE watchdog by consumers, the BBB has a strong reputation that drives consumer confidence when buying goods or services from small and medium sized businesses.  A very common “threat” to a business from an unsatisfied customer is “I will report you to the Better Business Bureau.”

Journalistic-drama aside, the mere fact that you are able to buy a better rating should have consumers strongly questioning the integrity of their system. This is very disturbing.

When we started WeddingWire, one of our core values was to increase market transparency by creating a consumer review-oriented offering to help engaged couples.  Consumer review sites such as Yelp and Tripadvisor have shown that third-party reviews are an invaluable marketing tool for any business.  Since our launch in 2007, we’ve now grown to be the largest resource for wedding-related reviews on the web.  Many of our clients use reviews as an effective closing tool, such as “Be sure to check out our reviews at WeddingWire.com and see what my past clients say about me.”  We see consumer’s reviews as a win-win for both engaged couples and wedding pros.  Engaged couples get neutral, third-party perspective.  Wedding pros have a strong marketing and closing tool.

The efficacy of consumer reviews all begins with the baseline integrity of the reviews system and the brand.  These are two things that we take very seriously at WeddingWire.  Engaged couples must trust our brand and our site; it’s the single most important factor in helping our clients close new business.

I do wonder what will happen to this BBB policy.  Once you lose the integrity of a reviews-based system, it’s very difficult to recover.  Click here to watch the video and decide for yourself whether you’ll trust their ratings going forward.

The Better Business Bureau, one of the country’s best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a “pay for play” scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don’t.