How Rating Your Customers Can Change Service Perceptions

Surveying your customers can bring some interesting benefits.

You can gain valuable insight that allows you to improve service. And, as I noted in a recent blog post, just asking for feedback might increase loyalty and spending.

There's another trend that's worth watching. Survey scores appear to rise when customers are also rated.

This post explores how this might be happening.

Who Is Rating Customers?

There's at least a few companies doing it now. They include Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Ebay offered this feature until they discontinued it in 2008.

The idea behind rating consumers is to encourage better behavior. The Uber website explains:

"The rating system works to make sure that the most respectful riders and drivers are using Uber."

Uber also posted an explanation on their blog that indicated passengers with low ratings might not be able to continue using their service.

The concept appears to work to a certain extent. A recent New York Times article explored several examples where passengers made a point to be more polite when they were using Uber.


How These Ratings Change Perceptions

There may be a downside to rating consumers.

A Boston University study compared ratings for vacation rental properties that are evaluated on both Airbnb and TripAdvisor. Airbnb allows properties to rate their guests while TripAdvisor does not. 

The results? Ratings on Airbnb averaged 14.4 percent higher than the same properties on TripAdvisor. 

Clearly, the knowledge that they too will be rated has affected these guests' ratings. What's not clear is why. There seems to be a few likely explanations:

  • Airbnb reviewers are naturally more lenient than TripAdvisor reviewers.
  • Airbnb reviewers rate higher because they know they'll be rated.
  • TripAdvisors give harsher ratings because they don't face any consequences.



This could be a trend to watch. I'm a big proponent of civility. It's important that we try to be kind and respectful to the hardworking people who serve us. 

If rating customers helps this, I'm all for it. On the other hand, I'm wary of any move that artificially manipulates survey scores and prevents problems from being solved.

Where do you come out on this?