The Truth About BBB and Uber: 10 Facts You Should Know
There is an old saying that you should never get into a fight with someone who buys their ink by the barrel. That should probably be updated now to say you should never get in a fight with someone who has a huge online following. But whether on paper, on air or online, sometimes the media get stuff wrong… even The New York Times.
In the past few days, Better Business Bureau got a tremendous amount of coverage in both traditional and social media; so much so that we were trending online. As the BBB national spokesperson, I should be thrilled about that. But I’m not, because the way it came about was due to some clever public relations and some less-than-stellar reporting.
Here are the facts:
The rideshare company Uber Technologies has an F rating with Better Business Bureau. As they are headquartered in San Francisco, they are rated by BBB Golden Gate, one of 112 local, independent BBBs across North America.
All BBBs follow the same rating system, which is explained in detail at a link that appears on every one of our 4.5 million BBB Business Reviews (all available for free at bbb.org).
The specific reasons for the company’s rating are spelled out in their Business Review: “Factors that lowered Uber Technologies’ rating include: Length of time business has been operating. Failure to respond to 39 complaints against the business.” Details from many of those complaints are also available in the Business Review.
On Thursday, October 8, 2014, a public relations agency that represents the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association put out a press release about Uber’s F rating with BBB. They did not consult with BBB before doing so and we knew nothing of the press release until it was distributed online.
A blogger with The New York Times saw the release and did an article that did not mention the taxicab association as the source of the story (he didn’t contact BBB either).
Within an hour of the article posting, I contacted the reporter by both telephone and email, highlighting four things that were wrong and asking that they be corrected.
The article said that Uber had received an F rating from BBB that day. Actually, they have had an F rating for quite some time. The only thing that happened that day was the PR agency’s press release.
The article said the rating was based on the number of complaints when in reality the rating was due to Uber’s failure to respond to some of those complaints.
The article said that BBB ratings have been “increasingly marginalized” compared to Yelp and other commercial services. In fact, research by Nielsen shows that BBB is trusted by consumers at a significantly higher rate than Yelp, Angie’s List and other for-profit review sites. Our trust scores are comparable with Consumer Reports.
The article said that “some branches” of BBB were accused of pay-to-play. In reality only one BBB, the former BBB of the Southland (Los Angeles), was accused and it has since been expelled from the organization.
I pointed out to the reporter that other media outlets were likely to use The New York Times as a source and that his story should be as accurate as possible.
The reporter responded to me via email and, after going back and forth several times, he said that he was “in transit” (it was by now the end of the work day) but would address the issue shortly. I never heard back from him and he never made any changes to the story.
As I predicted, a number of other outlets reported based on The New York Times story. They not only repeated some of the original mistakes, but some took it a step further and said that BBB gave Uber an F rating due to surge pricing or due to the 90+ complaints filed against the company.
A number of the complaints to BBB were about surge pricing. However, the F rating is not directly related to the nature of the complaints but rather to the lack of response from the company.
BBB Golden Gate has a meeting with Uber next week to talk to them about a better process for handling their complaints. This meeting was set up before the press release and ensuing media coverage. We are hopeful that Uber will work more closely with BBB in the future and will more readily respond to their customers’ concerns.
Other companies that have an F rating with BBB are urged to contact the BBB where they are headquartered to review best practices and, in particular, discuss improvements in customer complaint handling. BBBs are always willing to work with businesses seeking to enhance marketplace trust.
Working with BBB isn’t just about resolving complaints, it’s also about a business’s reputation – you never know who is going to be utilizing BBB for information.
- See more at: http://www.bbb.org/blog/2014/10/the-truth-about-bbb-and-uber-10-facts-you-should-know/#sthash.jeypQvVj.dpuf