You Rate Businesses, But What Happens When Businesses Start to Rate You?

You’re probably familiar with Yelp, Trip Advisor, Yellow Pages, and other online review sites that help you pick out the best restaurants, hotels, services, and attractions in your local area. You may have even contributed to some of these sites by telling others about your stellar (or not so stellar) experience. But what would happen if businesses started rating their customers?

In actuality, this has already begun. Uber already has a rating system in place whereby drivers can rate passengers. Low-rated passengers can be declined service (since they are not worth the hassle for drivers). The very lowest-rated passengers might even be booted off the service altogether:

“It’s very rare that anyone is ever taken away from the platform,” says Chris Taylor, general manager of Uber Illinois. “But if a rider makes drivers feel unsafe, they’re aggressive, if they’re violent, then we have an obligation that drivers feel safe because this is their place where they’re providing service.” . . .

Passengers who want to know their rating can e-mail Uber to find out. Most riders we talked to say they didn’t know they were being scrutinized.

“I mean now that I know that I’ll probably act better,” says Leigh Cohen.

Yes. That is precisely the point. As businesses begin to organize around an ultra-sensitive democratic model of service-offering, it makes sense that the online rating system should become a two-way street. AirBnB and Open Table also have customer ratings in place. And other business communities are sure to follow suit.

Customers want to be matched to the best, most affordable businesses in town. But businesses also want to be matched with the most polite, least bothersome, most dependable customers. It is only a matter of time before a generalized customer review site appears for businesses to use.

This could actually be a boon to other customers as well. If bad customers are booted from the system, or are restrained by the threat of being booted from the system, it means that businesses will have less waste, better morale, and generally better service. Perhaps even lower prices.

Anyone who has ever worked in customer service knows this: it is often the least profitable customers with the least to offer that require the most time and demand the most outlay to resolve their issues. These customers hold “bad reviews” over the heads of businesses in order to jockey for benefits that they don’t deserve. Good customers pay for those benefits.

But perhaps that is all about to change—when the shoe is on the other foot.