Friday, October 20, 2006

Better Business Bureau or Who can you trust?

Online trust is tough to build.

My site is a real "soft sell". We never make outlandish promises such as "better grades in 6 weeks" or "learn to read in month" (BTW - the initial Hooked on Phonics bankruptcy was due to the first Bush administration cracking down on their irresponsible claims). While I ask for an email on one of my major landing pages, I don't force them to give it to me to see the demos. My follow-up emails to visitors provide a broad number of ways to help their children (only one of which is Time4Learning). When people sign up, I don't ask for any commitment. They can cancel at any time and even have a two week money-back gurantee (an option that about 18% of the people exercise). We now answer the phone 6 days a week and email 7 days a week with superior member support. In short, my business strategy is about having a long-term relationship with the homeschool market and relying primarily on repeat users and word of mouth. It's working.

One way of measuring trust is the question of shopping cart abandons. My payment page used to have a 90% abandon rate but through alot of fiddling with the page and changing the process by which people get into it, I'm down to 65% abandons. My 90% rate was within industry norms, my 65% abandon rate is considered pretty good by people "in the know".

One reason that people abandon is that they don't yet trust us. The visa, amex, mastercard, and discovery logos help people having confidence. I also have a logo from "XRamp SSL secured" which is hotlinked to their site which is supposed to provide confidence to my users. But since their name is unknown, I'm not sure it helps. I have yet to fiddle with using variations on their logo (there are a number to try) but I wonder if that will help.

I'd like to add the verisign and paypal logos since they seem respected and build confidence but I don't work with them. Maybe I should. I think I'll look into putting a paypal payment option right on the payment page.

Many sites have the BBB - Better Business Bureau logo. Or the Better Business Bureau Online logo. I feel that this is respected and so I have started to look into getting one..

1. First sad observation on the Better Business Bureau. To contact BBB, I go to their site and put in my company info and that I would like to be contacted to get signed up. I eventually get a call from a "sales rep" who claims that they have had customer inquiries about me and I get a hard sell from him about why I need BBB to convince customers. He's a jerk. Their internal communication is so bad that he is not given the message that I submitted in their box. Although I tell him that I was the one who put the info into their system (we even confirm the date), he keeps trying to tell me that a customer asked about me on that date. He doesn't seem to understand that I'm an online business and don't have a window to post their sticker onto although I think I explain it clearly. Clearly he's commissioned, clueless and perhaps deaf. I won't mention his name but it discourages me so much that I decide to drop the better business bureau online idea.

2. I continue to note that many online businesses use the BBB logo. Some just copy it and its not a live link. It's unclear to me that BBB ever finds and attacks them. I actually make inquiries about this and find that they do send "cease and desist letters". Sounds expensive and old fashioned and ineffective. Why don't they follow the letters by creating a blacklist of sites illicitly using their logo and aggressive provide the info to people who matter (credit card companies, search engine companies , john q public etc) that they are sleazeballs and get some cooperation in getting real penalties put to them (sites banned in the search engines

3. This month I decided to make another run at BBB and put my name in their box again. New person called. Ruth. Much nicer. Not rude. Actually listens!!!! But, their structure is still silly. She has no computer and cannot look at my site. It seems that I need to go thru their local approval process (local being the Better Business Bureau that oversees from Vero Beach down the East Coast of Florida to the Keys). Then, I can deal with their national Better Business Bureau. I'm working on it.

For my BBB BBBOnline update...

PS - I'd like their to be a BBB-type online service that checks compliance with Coppa, Privacy, SPAM, customer service, refund policy etc etc so that people really had some help distinguishing the truly compliant businesses

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