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When Did Uber’s Rating System Become Worthless?

Richard Shapiro | Apr 10, 2017 309 views 8 Comments

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When I first starting using Uber in 2015, I wrote a blog about how surveys are a waste of time unless the ratings have validity. Now, two years later, it is confirmed, in my opinion as a loyal Uber patron, that Uber ratings are worthless.

Have you ever requested an Uber and noted that the driver had a rating less than 4.5? I have not.

I took an Uber in Fort Lauderdale from my apartment to the airport.  The driver had a rating of 4.82, the equivalent of 96.4 of a scale of 100. Definitely a good grade, one that I would have been happy to receive on any test I took.  That driver, with the 4.82 rating, got lost on the way to the pick up, didn’t automatically place my luggage in the trunk (I had to lift it myself), was on the phone, couldn’t follow the GPS, turned left when I told her to turn right, and drove too fast and erratically.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the car.

The next experience was also involving an airport run.  I flew into Fort Lauderdale and requested an Uber.  Two different drivers called me to ask my destination before picking me up.  Twice I told them, and both asked if I would cancel my request.  Finally, on the third try, I had success.  When I shared my experience with the driver, he told me I had been scammed.  All drivers know the pick up point and destination.  We live close to the airport and those drivers wanted a longer drive and bigger fare. Both of those Uber drivers had rating above 4.5.



Uber is getting bad press and obviously for good reason.  Loyal Uber subscribers like me don’t know what to do.  I prefer Uber service to a taxi or car-for-hire.  Certainly Uber prices are competitive.  Still, there are basics, like picking me up, saying hello or have a nice day.  Some drivers do, but many don’t.

Uber drivers rate passengers too. Perhaps that is fair because safety is involved.  However, I think the customer rating system should be eliminated.  Drivers should record a note on a customer’s profile if that customer is rude, abusive, inebriated, etc.  What is the purpose of driver’s rating customers?  According to Uber, “ratings are anonymous….candid, constructive  and respectful feedback is beneficial to everyone.  Rating fosters mutual respect and strengthens our community.”    I was curious about mine.  In the Uber app, under Help a rider can discover their rating in “Changing my account”.  There your rating is listed if you confirm your phone number.  I had to play around with various options before I got to what I was looking for.  My rating is 4.66 – not sure why.  I think I’m a nice person and very polite.  I always say hello.  Certainly if I’m a 4.66, the driver in Fort Lauderdale should be less than a 2.0.

What do you think of the Uber’s rating system? Is it worth your time?

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8 Responses to When Did Uber’s Rating System Become Worthless?

  1. Dennis Gershowitz April 11, 2017 at 6:42 am (2 comments) #

    Richard…Good question! The very reason why I prefer phone surveys. I find the quality and results to be more accurate and actionable. Surveys, such as the one you are referring to can often end up like “stuffing the ballot box”. I take these types of survey ratings with the proverbial “grain of salt”.

  2. Michael Lowenstein April 11, 2017 at 7:01 am (1240 comments) #

    If the ratings have little or no connection to reality then, indeed, they should be eliminated or replaced. Many of the problems you’ve addressed have been overcome by municipal taxi authorities, which regulate how cab companies perform on the kinds of passenger issues you’ve raised.

    What Uber is experiencing goes beyond growing pains. The performance challenges are largely matters of culture and process, and Uber needs to get serious about wanting to provide more professional, seamless and consistent value delivery in the service they offer. Otherwise, traditional taxi services, which already have huge dislike for Uber, will find ways to draw Uber’s business away.

  3. Richard Shapiro April 12, 2017 at 2:50 am (120 comments) #

    Hi Dennis, thanks for your comment. I agree that up until a few years ago that having a conversation with a customer via a phone survey provided great insights. However, with everyone having mobile phones with caller ID, a large percentage of consumers will never even answer the phone if they don’t know who the caller is; therefore limited the survey population. However, you bring up an excellent point that Uber might be better off sending out a separate email survey to customers on a periodic basis to capture a more accurate driver score. Instead of having a forced rating system, they could most likely get more reliable driver satisfaction even if the sample population was less. Thanks again for your opinion and feedback. Richard

  4. Richard Shapiro April 12, 2017 at 2:55 am (120 comments) #

    Michael, thanks for your comments. Uber is experiencing tremendous growing pains involving many aspects of their business; service, culture, etc. Overall, most Uber customers do love the service especially in those cities were public transportation is not readily available. However, because their model is not that difficult to replicate, they better get their act together soon before other companies start chipping away from their customer base. In New York, Via and Lyft have become strong competitors of Uber. Thanks again, Richard

  5. Bob Thompson April 12, 2017 at 11:00 am (212 comments) #

    Richard, I don’t personally think the Uber ratings are worthless. My experiences have been great — especially when compared to taxis. I’ve given 4 or 5 ratings (mostly 5s) to every Uber driver except maybe one. And he was a former taxi driver that keep asking for a tip!

    That said, here are a couple of theories for the inflated scores.

    1. Comparison to taxis. The combination of price, convenience and (my experience) personable drivers could drive high scores. As ride sharing becomes the norm, maybe they’ll come down.

    2. Rider ratings. I wonder if they fact that drivers rate riders motivates passengers to give higher scores. Could be some psychology at work here — riders don’t want to make it difficult to get future rides, so they give high scores no matter what.

    On point 2, there’s a great episode of Black Mirror on Netflix, showing this rating thing run amuck:
    http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/24/13379204/black-mirror-season-3-episode-1-nosedive-recap

    I did a quick search for Uber vs. Lyft satisfaction ratings and was surprised to fine none. There are lots of ratings of *driver* satisfaction, however.

    Has anyone seen independent reviews of customer satisfaction? If so, would be interesting to compare to the app-based ratings.

    I do agree that periodic email surveys, or some other approach (text message?) would be helpful to get customer feedback. Especially if done anonymously.

  6. Andrew Rudin April 12, 2017 at 2:00 pm (169 comments) #

    Like beauty, the efficacy of a rating system is in the eye of the beholder. With a rating system – any rating system – if you’re expecting numerical output that’s free from bias, or one that measures the “right” variables, and none of the “wrong” ones, you’re going to wind up disappointed. Or gullible, if you lack basic skepticism.

    I’ve learned that ratings that skew toward the high end of the scale portend a better experience than those that don’t. The converse is also true: lower scores carry higher risk of a bad time. I use crowd-sourced ratings numbers as a crude guide – not as gospel. The only thing I’m certain of is that in the course of events, my assumptions will be upended from time to time. I accept that risk. Always.

    It’s naive to believe that service ratings of any kind are inherently fair. In an article I wrote in 2009, Race and Gender Influence Customer Service Bonuses (see http://contrarydomino.com/2013/12/race-and-gender-influence-customer-service-bonuses/), I cited a study by David Hekman of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee that revealed the playing field is not as level as we’d like to think it is when we assign ratings for services rendered. (see http://www.sba.uwm.edu/Hekman_D/racefinal.pdf). Since reading this study, and others, I have been skeptical when employers claim they are not perpetuating pay inequality because they include customer ratings in compensation calculus. Or that ratings of employees are “fully objective.” Usually, they are not. Hekman’s study showed that when controlling for the service experience, women and African-American employees (actors) received lower ratings from customers than did white males.

    On a separate note, I saw the same episode on Black Mirror (one of my favorite series!) that Bob mentioned. The situation was as creative as it was disturbing. I never regard anything on that show as pure fantasy.

  7. Richard Shapiro April 13, 2017 at 2:54 pm (120 comments) #

    Hi Andrew, I always appreciate when you share you wisdom. The link to your article on how bonuses for customer service personnel are not alway fair was interesting and valuable. I think that transactional surveys in general tend to lose their validity when the customer has multiple interactions with a company in a relatively short period of time. I understand in this case that there are separate experiences based on individual drivers, but trying to force customers to rate every ride adds to the problem as well. Richard

  8. Richard Shapiro April 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm (120 comments) #

    Bob, thanks too for your valuable insight and for referencing the Black Mirror Episode on Netflix. As you mentioned, people’s perceptions of service are always based on comparison. Sometimes they only think of the experience of one restaurant to another, one shared ride service to another or as many of us know, no matter what the industry, how does it stack up to Amazon, the elephant in the room. Thanks once again for taking time to comment. I greatly appreciate it. Richard

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