How to Handle a BBB Complaint Against Your Company

How to Handle a BBB Complaint

When businesses receive a complaint through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) , it can really harm marketplace trust. BBB complaints are not only publicly available, but they also impact your overall BBB rating.

The International Association of Better Business Bureaus includes separately incorporated Better Business Bureaus including organizations in the us, Canada and Mexico too? The separately incorporated Better Business Bureau organizations also include the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust.

Here’s how to deal with a complaint against your company filed with BBB organizations in the us or in Canada and Mexico.

How to Handle a BBB Complaint

1. Respond

Sandy Gamby, director of operations for Better Business Bureau Akron branch, explains why it’s important to respond to complaints immediately:

“It’s not necessarily just a complaint that can harm a business’s reputation. Most businesses get complaints at some point. But it looks bad if the volume of complaints is large compared to the size of your business, if there’s a pattern where the same type of complaint is lodged multiple times, or if the complaint is deemed to be serious like if a customer paid for something and didn’t receive anything in return.”

2. Acknowledge and Apologize

In your response, the BBB recommends addressing each issue that the customer has brought up. Gamby also said that the business should stay fair and reasonable, acknowledge the experience that the customer had, and stick to the facts.

3. Provide Documentation

If the customer’s story about your company doesn’t match with the real experience they had, provide documentation for your side of the story. This might be impossible, but it adds credibility to businesses since the BBB’s complaints and resolutions are publicly available.

4. Be Proactive

Oftentimes, Gamby said, customers reach out to the businesses themselves before filing a complaint with the BBB.

Sometimes customers are just seeking acknowledgement and an apology. Other times, a refund or other resolution. Taking action before a complaint helps businesses avoid a BBB complaint.

5. Have Sound Contracts

Have clear contracts with clients and customers. Let people know exactly what to expect. Inflated expectations will cause them to complain later.

The BBB will review contracts for members. This makes them less likely to cause problems later.

6. Be Respectful

Gamby says business owners and representatives must show up on time. Treat people with respect and courtesy. Make sure customer service is a top priority. These steps eliminate quite a few potential complaints.

What happens when a customer complains to the BBB?

When a customer complains to the BBB, a business has 10 days to respond. If a BBB accredited business is unable to respond within 10 business days for any reason, reach out to the BBB local branch to explain the reason. Otherwise, the complaint will go on record as unanswered, showing the businesses didn’t successfully address the issue, resulting in a ratings drop.

Photo via Shutterstock


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

17 Reactions
  1. Nice one, Annie!

    Small Business Trends is a member of the Better Business Bureau, yet I found this common sense and methodical approach to handling complaints lodged with the BBB to contain information I hadn’t really thought about before.

    – Anita

    • Thank you! The BBB had some really great tips for dealing with these situations that most businesses go through at some point.

      • My husband owns a small business that is registered with the BBB. Unfortunately, we have come to find out that there is another business out there with the same name as ours that keeps getting multiple complaints with the BBB. The people who are filing the complaints are filing in error against our company. We always respond to the complaint and explain that there are other companies out there with the same name and this complaint does not have anything to do with our company. I have tried contacting my local BBB to see what I can do to correct the issue but NO ONE ever returns my calls and it is very frustrating.

  2. I think these tips are not only useful, but some can be used for most other platforms where a complaint is expressed (complaints never going unanswered, for instance.)

    • That’s very true! Some are specific to BBB complaints but most of them are pretty good common sense practices for all types of businesses.

  3. please call or email me as I just found out you have two open complaints against my company that are not true and was never notified about them 561-305-0475

  4. This is really useful. Businesses really need to learn how to handle complaints so that they can turn it around and may even give the need of the customer. Trust me. Getting some negative feedback is not the end of the road. You can still turn it into a positive thing if you just become persistent.

    • I’d add, along with persistence, listening, swallowing your ego, forgiving yourself for what might have been an oversight on your part and not letting that get in the way of moving forward with the customer.

      • All people and all businesses make mistakes. The way you handle them can say a lot about you and can really have a big impact on people’s opinions.

  5. You can’t make everyone happy, but realistically you should have very few, if any, complaints with the BBB. Having sound contracts is very helpful in avoiding bad reviews, but it’s more about how you express what is written in the contract verbally when interacting with customers. A lot of the content in contracts is considered standard or generic, such as: “is not responsible for”, or “does not guarantee.” If you are providing a service, you are basically being paid to solve a problem. If you take someone’s money and the service you provide doesn’t solve their problem, emotion becomes involved and they’ll either understand why or won’t. It’s about setting reasonable expectations, maintaining good communication throughout the process, and handling customer service with integrity. Of course, there will always be people you can’t please, but (in my experience) more often than not they reach out to you first and only file complaints if they feel like it wasn’t worth your time to do right by them.

    • Very true. It’s important to give people a realistic view of the products or services you provide BEFORE they spend their money with you. And when they do come to you with a complaint you should try as hard as possible to solve it before it has to go to the BBB.

  6. I wanted to understand how long a business has to respond to a complaint. I received far more and better information from this than expected. It takes two, however, to make it work. The consumer as well as the business. Both could use documentation to make their case, if they have it, and the truth.

    In the meantime, as the consumer reading the other end of my issue from the business, they had a valid concern. So, I’ve taken care of some of my part in it (until this is settled or ended, whichever comes first).

    I agree – one does what can be done prior to going to BBB and they become close to a last resort. In years past, I’ve found them exceptionally helpful.

    Nice non-BBB site 🙂 .

  7. i feel like this is about how the company can soften the blow, suger coat things and sweep things under the rug. If there are customer complaints, they should address them head on not try to sweet talk the customer.

  8. Please let me know what happens or how to respond when ex-staff bashes your business via the BBB? I have a complaint (and I believe one coming) with the BBB, and it is nothing but fabrication. Every business goes through staffing issues, and of course, not everyone is pleased with the outcome. In this day and age of reviews and SEO, what protection does a small business have against such fraudulent complaints?

    • There is no protection. The BBB will take your monthly memnership and end up being the customer advocate as “the customer is always right” in their eyes. Business pays the bbb $$ so the bbb can give customers a platform to bash business online. Simple as that. No protection for business here, not at all!

      • That is entirely incorrect as I have filed a fully legitimate complaint, and in the business’ reply, they said they discussed the matter with me and all was resolved. They never contacted me, and NOTHING was resolved. When I submitted that response, the company just went ahead and disagreed… then the file was closed, with a status of “resolved, but the customer is not happy with the outcome.” You’re damn skippy I’m not happy with the outcome, there WAS no outcome. Businesses can apparently just lie to the BBB and their word is as good as gold- the particular business I was dealing with has 95 negative ratings, and 5 positive ones; also 283 formal complaints… somehow, they still have a “B” rating. That makes zero sense, and sure seems to me like it protects the business more than the consumer.

  9. First the BBB tries to come across as a government agency – they ARE NOT – it’s a franchised business. Then IF you pay for Accreditation (only way to get Accreditation) you get an A+ no matter how many complaints you have. They do not help you solve anything. The BBB is basically one online directory – DO NOT PAY FOR it. Google “Complaints against the Better Business Bureau” – scroll past their website results – the ones with – maybe past 3 results – and PRESTO!!!! Endless complaints. They are a scam – they claim to be non-profit – yet they make a profit. Screwing our government over as well,.