The Better Business Bureau is the go-to resource for verifying a business’s credibility. They receive complaints about accredited businesses from consumers, and a business’s ability and willingness to respond to those complaints is factored greatly an accompanying score. That’s called a BBB Rating.

Therefore, just joining the BBB’s roster of recognized businesses isn’t enough to ensure good standing with them. You’ll need to work to maintain and improve, your BBB rating.

If you’re the owner of a BBB-accredited business, it’s important to understand exactly how your score is calculated and what might negatively it.

There’s a thin line between receiving an A+ rating from the BBB and an A, and it doesn’t take much to drop down even further. Learning how to keep a good rating, and why it matters, is crucial for maintaining the credibility of your business.

How does a business receive a good BBB rating?

The BBB awards approved businesses a score from 1-100, which corresponds to a letter grade, as you’d see on a school report card. You can receive an A+, A, or A-, on down through F.

There are 13 specific factors that the BBB uses to create your numeric score:

  • Complaint volume (weighted by complaint age)
  • Unanswered complaints
  • Unresolved complaints
  • Complaint resolution delayed
  • Time in business
  • Failure to address complaint pattern
  • Type of business
  • Transparent business practices
  • Failure to honor mediation/arbitration
  • Competency licensing
  • Government action (per action)
  • Advertising review (per incident)
  • BBB trademark infringement

Most of these factors are within your control, with the exception of time in business—if you’re a startup, you’ll just have to wait. But you have the power to respond to and resolve complaints or to avoid advertising infractions.

Of those factors, only five of them actually result in receiving points. The other factors max out at zero points, and can only subtract from your score. In order to get points, note the following factors and related score values:

1) Complaint volume (weighted by complaint age): 0 – 15 points

Besides running a fair and ethical business that doesn’t upset customers, you can’t help your complaint volume much. The more complaints you have, especially if they are recent complaints, the fewer points you will be rewarded.

2) Unanswered complaints: 0–40 points

When someone files a complaint with the BBB against an accredited business, that business is notified and has 14 days to respond before they get another notice and another 14 days. Respond to complaints promptly if you want to maintain or improve your score. This is really the crux of the BBB scoring system: If you refuse to answer customer complaints, you’re going to get an F.

3) Unresolved complaints: 0–30 points

In your response to your customer complaint, you have to demonstrate a willingness to address their concern. You can first engage with the customer directly, but failing that, the BBB will get involved in the form of trained resolution specialists. A resolved complaint doesn’t always mean the customer wins and the business loses: The BBB can decide the customer is being unreasonable, or that the business did all they could to resolve the issue.

4) Complaint resolution delayed: 0–5 points

If you wait until day 28 to address a customer complaint, you’ll lose a few points, as compared to addressing it right away.

5) Time in business: 0–10 points

A business won’t receive a rating for its first year, and they’ll get 2.5 points each year they’re in business after that. After four years, they’ll max out this factor.

If you have a long-running business and promptly respond and resolve the few customer complaints you receive, you’ll likely have a great score represented in the A range (assuming you don’t lose points on the other factors).

How to maintain your BBB rating

To maintain your high rating, you’ll need to focus on two things:

One is continuing to score points by addressing the first four factors above (and waiting on the fifth). An uptick in recent complaints, or a lack of effort on your part to resolve customer issues, will ding your score.

Two, you’ll need to avoid losing points in the other eight factors. The way the BBB weighs infractions against those factors is proprietary to the organization, but issues that can deduct points from your score include:

  • If the business raises marketplace concerns or may be in violation of the law.
  • If the business does not have transparent practices—examples include if the business isn’t upfront about its products/services, or if it posts a false business address.
  • Failing to honor commitments to the BBB, such as agreeing to abide by a settlement.
  • Licensing or permit issues or governmental actions against the business that are known to the BBB. (Consumer legal action, surprisingly, does not affect your rating, unless it’s raised as part of an official complaint to the BBB.)
  • Advertising issues, such as false claims in advertising or misusing the BBB’s name.

Why a good BBB rating matters

The BBB isn’t perfect—in the past, it has been accused of unclear or unfair practices itself—but it’s well-regarded by many. Over 400,000 businesses across the country have BBB accreditation, and as a result, attracts those customers who may be concerned with how a business treats its clients.

Millions of customers visit the BBB site each year to see if they can trust their local businesses. Those businesses receive seals of approval that may be the difference between gaining new business and losing out to a competitor. And the BBB provides media exposure, proactive risk management, and a “Request a Quote” program for its accredited businesses.

Over the last 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has become perhaps the best-known independent business review organization in the country. Receiving and maintaining a good rating with them may be a bit more work, but it’s worth it in the long run.