Transparency, Trust, and Transformation
At the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma
Written by Lori Williams
How does an Oklahoma organization anticipate its 90th birthday? In the case of the Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma, it stays true to the core values established in 1930 while continually adapting its services to the business community. “Transparency is one of the core values of our business,” says Kitt Letcher, the CEO and President of the Bureau. “And our standards of trust must be met before a business can earn BBB accreditation. But we’re also really trying to transform our image to business owners.”
Transparency may be the best known characteristic of the BBB model: “The bbb.org website is a free resource that absolutely anybody can use,” says the CEO. “Consumers can look up businesses and know that both positive and negative reviews are actually vetted by our organization. The business owner sees and can respond to the reviews.”
But posting such comments online is only the beginning. “Out of negative experiences is where most of our opportunity lies,” says Ms. Letcher. “That’s as true when we receive negative feedback about the BBB as it is when any other business fields a complaint.”
So how does CEO Letcher define opportunity? “When we look at records from businesses receiving more than 3 complaints a year, we may see a pattern. If we feel like we can help, we reach out to the business and offer solutions.”
Sometimes, though, the businesses are the ones reaching out to the BBB. “When I came on board in 2013,” says Letcher, “one of the biggest things I heard from businesses was, ‘I get accredited; I get a bill; I pay the money, then I never hear from you again.’”
“That’s not what we want,” she says. So the CEO looked at the core value of trust and transformed it into something bigger.
“We started offering Trust Talks™ this past April,” she says. “We survey our business owners and then find special speakers to address areas of concern. Coming up, we will do 2020 Planning.”
Letcher has already done her planning for next year. In 2020 she and her team will launch a peer program and an ambassador program.
“I’m super excited about these programs,” she says. “With the peer program, we pull together eight to ten business owners and put them in a group.”
The day of the peer program will begin with a specially designed curriculum to address specific small business issues. The afternoon will include a round table discussion.
“Because this will be a confidential setting, business owners will be able to bring to the table an issue they’re currently working on. Then someone else in the group might say, ‘This is how I solved that problem.’ Keep in mind that that advice is not a theoretical statement; it’s coming from experience.”
For businesses in far flung parts of Oklahoma, Kitt offers an alternative program. “We cover about 70% of the state,” she says, “but it’s difficult for us to have a physical presence in all the communities where we have accredited businesses.”
“Next year, host businesses in places like Ada, Shawnee, Stillwater and Guymon will begin offering monthly meetings for other accredited businesses in their area.”
“There will be at least one tangible takeaway from each meeting, whether it’s the best way to respond to a complaint or how to increase customer reviews. It will also be a networking opportunity.”
“We’re really trying to transform our image to business owners. We want them to see us as a resource for helping and/or stabilizing their businesses.”