A better Better Business Bureau

Technology has allowed the Akron Better Business Bureau to make it easier for consumers to find out who’s good to do business with, and requests for information is soaring.

Traditionally, consumers could get basic information about member companies and charities by phone. Last year, a 24-hour-a-day information line was added to obtain information about specific companies.

Last spring, the BBB launched its Web site, where visitors can find out whether a company is a member or can access company profiles. This summer, the bureau started a fax-back service for obtaining reports, member lists or complaint forms.

“We are seeing a major increase in the number of contacts,” says Victor Wlaszyn, president of the Akron bureau.

The six-county office has 2,300 members.

Phone calls to the 24-hour line have jumped from 300 a day to 550 a day. Calls come late into the evening and occasionally in the middle of the night.

The Web site is seeing some 6,000 hits a month, with 4,000 unique users.

“What’s interesting is the vast majority are going into our member lists and not the full-company profile,” Wlaszyn says. “They seem to be satisfied just knowing a company is a member of the bureau.”

From 12 to 18 percent of Web visitors access company reports, he says.

On the new fax-back line, awareness is just starting to build. The line gets about a dozen requests a day, mostly new users, even though the same information has been there all along.

“The technology alone brings out a unique group of people,” Wlaszyn says. “Before they may have hesitated contacting us. Now they have more ways. Maybe that’s the difference.”