Local business owner Thom Baker seeks to leave Columbia a gift when he retires. Tucked away in his equipment-lain home office, Thom Baker of...
How would you describe your job? What are your day-to-day activities? My job as regional director of the Mid-Missouri Better Business Bureau is to provide services and programs to assist both consumers and businesses to help promote an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust one another. On a daily basis, I work with local media to ensure there is a constant flow of consumer education and business development information and to update consumers on any current scams in the area. I work with local businesses to determine their eligibility for accreditation and extend invitations to those companies who meet BBB standards. I also give presentations to a wide variety of groups wanting information about BBB programs and services.
The BBB is among the top 300 most-visited websites in the U.S. How popular is the mid-Missouri branch’s website? What can you find on the mid-Missouri branch site that isn’t available on the main site and vice versa. Although we still offer services over the phone, more and more people are turning to the BBB’s website for information. The local BBB website had more than 5.5 million webpage views in 2014, approximately half of which were customers looking up companies and charities prior to doing business with them. Specific to the mid-Missouri site are warnings posted about local companies that do not uphold high standards of fair and honest business practices, information about local scams and other postings reflecting marketplace ethics and best practices in our area.
The BBB does a variety of activities in Columbia, from shredding events to tip sharing after credit card breaches. What other activities do you do in the Columbia area to bolster business success? Our annual Shred Day event, offered in conjunction with the Missouri Attorney General’s office, gives consumers and businesses the chance to safely dispose of sensitive documents at no cost to them, which then leaves them less vulnerable to fraud and scams. Aside from the networking, educational and other opportunities available to our accredited businesses, the BBB’s presence in the mid-Missouri area — through unbiased reviews, investigations of consumer complaints and mediation services — helps to create and maintain a local business culture in which the most ethical companies can thrive. We also have an incredible advisory board made up of local industry leaders who help guide us in our efforts to be a consistently valuable resource for both business owners and consumers.
The BBB also serves as an intermediary between consumers and businesses. How many disputes does the mid-Missouri BBB see annually, on average, and what are the most common disputes? Although the mid-Missouri BBB handles almost 1,000 consumer complaints each year, they only represent about 10 percent of all inquiries we receive. A majority of these disputes involve issues with customer service, sales practices, advertising issues, billing and collections and contract disputes across a wide range of industries.
The BBB prospects successfully vetted businesses to become dues-paying accredited businesses that pledge to adhere to the BBB Code of Business Practices. How many mid-Missouri members do you have, and what benefits do you extend to your members? There are 415 accredited businesses in mid-Missouri, proudly displaying the trusted BBB seal and logo on their websites and marketing materials. These businesses enjoy the benefit of having the BBB as a local partner to help answer consumer questions, customize seminars, investigate unethical business practices and monitor advertising for truth and accuracy. Continuing education and networking events are planned for our accredited businesses, giving them the opportunity to share best practices and cultivate new and existing relationships with other trustworthy businesses. We are planning the first mid-Missouri TORCH Awards in the fall to recognize companies and charities committed to exceptional standards of ethical business practices and service to their customers, employees, suppliers and communities.
The BBB was founded in 1912. How has the BBB modernized with the times to continue to be relevant today? With today’s online, interconnected, global economy, people need, appreciate and expect an unbiased source to provide reliable, comprehensive and accessible information to guide them as they make important decisions about who they can trust. We are out in the community working with chambers of commerce, attorneys general, law enforcement and others to promote ethical business practices and to protect consumers from unethical ones. Because the BBB website is one of the top 300 websites in the United States, it enhances SEO of websites of accredited businesses. Technology and social media are really the driving forces behind the BBB’s ongoing successful efforts to modernize and continue to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of business and industry.