When homeowners search for a basement waterproofing company in the Chicago area, one of the most popular places to start is the Better Business Bureau (BBB). This post looks at the BBB, their grading system and how to interpret the information you find and put it into context.
According to the BBB’s website, their mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.
In order to become a member of the BBB, you first must meet their standards for integrity, transparency and fair dealing. Once you’ve done so, you have the right to become an “Accredited Business”. For a better understanding of the process, visit the BBB’s website.
The BBB uses a rating system, with grades from A+ to F, to set standards for consumer trust. There are a number of factors that go into this grading system and the BBB has a great piece on their website to walk you through their process.
As business owners, we all recognize how much value the public puts on a grade from the BBB. A bad grade can cost a business dearly, so it keeps everyone on their toes. If a business owner’s moral compass is properly aligned, things usually take care of themselves. If it isn’t, eventually, their grade from the BBB will reflect their business practices.
However, as thorough as the BBB’s grading process is, it may not be enough for you as a consumer to rely on their grade alone. Before you think that I’m writing this to justify a poor grade let me say that our company is proud to be an Accredited Member of the BBB with an A+ rating; we also won the coveted Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics in 2006. I just want to explain what those ratings will and will not tell you.
A key factor in the BBB’s grading system comes from readily available information. Much information, such as years in business, type of business, etc. is relatively easy for the BBB to obtain and verify. But they can’t really know what goes on between businesses and their customers without a little help from somebody. A little hint – look in the mirror! That’s right; it’s your assistance, Mr. and Mrs. Consumer that helps the BBB in its work!
Think of the number of times you’ve had a bad customer experience with everyday dealings like getting your car repaired or applying for a mortgage. Did you file a complaint with the BBB? Good for you if you did! Perhaps you just handled things on your own by spreading the word among friends, family and coworkers. This might have provided you with personal satisfaction, but had you also told the BBB then other consumers would know, too.
Even if a business does get a BBB complaint, it doesn’t immediately lower their rating -- they are given a chance to address it, and they should. We’ve found that most basement waterproofing companies have been able to maintain their high grade simply by responding to the customer. If that doesn’t satisfy the complaint, there is a more formal dispute resolution process available. Usually things don’t get that far if the business handles things in good faith.
If a business doesn’t have any complaints and is “Accredited”, it’s not hard to maintain an A+ rating. This makes it easy for a small business with relatively few customers. Larger companies, however, may be put at a disadvantage.
To give credit to the BBB, their rating formula does take into account the ratio of complaints to the size of the company as a part of their grading formula. However, the formula depends on self-reported data from the member company and is reported only in very broad ranges – one category goes from several hundred customers annually to tens of thousands. The BBB doesn’t report on a basement waterproofing company’s profile the number of jobs done on an annual basis or how many they have performed since they started in business. Most businesses treat this as confidential information, although we proudly put ours on display.
Take a look at our BBB profile. At the time of publication, we have 6 complaints over the past 12 months and an A+ rating. During that period, we’ve performed thousands of jobs and some of those complaints stem from work done several years ago. Any one of our 300,000+ past customers can file a complaint at any time and aren’t obligated to contact us first, although most do. I personally have resolved just about every one of these complaints and we are very proud of the fact that we have so few compared to the number of homeowners we have served.
The other company you may consider has only 3 complaints and also has an A+ rating. Does that make them better? Maybe they’ve been in business only a short time and have done only 300 jobs. So what’s better, 3 complaints out of 300 or 6 complaints out of 300,000? Do the math.
There is only one other basement waterproofing contractor in Chicagoland that is similar in size to us. The rest are much smaller and have done only a small number of jobs compared to us and our largest competitor. There’s nothing wrong with being small, but the smart consumer needs to understand that everything is relative. I will, however, suggest that the larger company with the longer history is more likely to be around to back up that “Lifetime” Warranty.
The BBB has made tremendous strides toward achieving their mission and I applaud them for their vigilance and rigorous pursuit of excellence. They regard their rating system as a quick and easy way for consumers to evaluate companies and I agree that it is exactly that. I think it would be great if, in addition, the BBB followed the lead of such organizations as “Angie’s List” and made customer reviews a part of their reporting. That would be a helpful addition to their grading system.
The bottom line is that a company’s BBB rating is a very important tool for consumers to establish trust in a company they don’t already know. The BBB’s slogan is “Start with Trust” and I couldn’t agree more. Start with trust but don’t stop until you’ve read our other tips to consider before hiring a basement waterproofing company!
If you have any thoughts on using the Better Business Bureau's rating system please let us know in the Comments box below. As always, if U.S. Waterproofing can be of service to you, please contact us.