How to Fix Uber and Lyft’s Rating System


Harry right here.  The concept of a score system sounds nice on the floor, however the best way it’s executed right now leaves drivers wanting extra.  Today, senior RSG contributor John Ince shares what it’s like to be a driver on this system and the way it can all be fastened.  

I vividly keep in mind my first introduction to ridesharing virtually three years in the past.  I used to be assembly with my Lyft “mentor” who was supposed to give me a check drive and reply any questions I had about turning into a driver.  But he appeared rushed and distracted, which I later found was as a result of he was on-line – ready for a experience request. He hurriedly confirmed me the fundamentals of utilizing the driving force app, together with score system,  “The passenger rates you from 1 to 5.  These ratings are important because, if your average of the last 100 rating drops below 4.6, you’re in jeopardy of being de-activated.”

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Is Uber's rating system unfair? What about Lyft's? There are a few key ways Uber and Lyft could improve the rating system - for drivers and passengers.

A Harsh System

“Wait,” I stated, “With the bar set that high, it sounds like one bad rating from a frustrated passenger could kill your average.”

“That’s right,” he stated.  “It’s a pretty harsh system.”

His remark lingered in my mind as his telephone pinged with a experience request. He  tapped to settle for and hurriedly stated, “I gotta go.”

Standing there feeling confused and alone, I did a some psychological gymnastics. Let’s say you’re a four.eight rated driver and one passenger is in a very dangerous temper. Let’s say you probably did one thing minor, like perhaps took a flawed flip, or made some offhand remark that was taken the incorrect method, otherwise you didn’t discover a multitude a previous passenger left within the again seat. Even although you didn’t do something actually dangerous, they nonetheless fee you one star.

Figuring this out, a  5 star score would add plus .2 to your common, however a one star score would subtract three.eight out of your common.  So let’s see… to recuperate from one 1 star score, you want 19 5 star scores.  Yes, that may be a very harsh system.

The extra I drove, the extra I noticed that it’s not solely harsh – it unfair too.  Loads of passengers do not know the system is that harsh, in order that they routinely fee driver with a failing grade – even for a great journey.  Awhile again I began taking a ballot of my passengers. I might say, “Hey I’ve got a question.  You know the ratings system, do you think 4 stars is a good rating?”

About two thirds stated, “Yes.”

By the best way, right here’s a good video that explains this phenomenon:

Different People and Different Areas Use Different Standards

One can simply perceive why many passengers assume four stars is an effective score.  On Amazon four stars is fairly respectable.  On Yelp, I as soon as had a passenger who owned a number of eating places within the San Francisco Bay space, and he advised me that eating places reside and die by scores.  He stated, “On Yelp, 4 stars is a really good rating.” However, he identified that in different cities, four begins won’t be so good, “like Philadelphia,” the place he additionally owned a restaurant.

In my ballot, once I advised passengers that a driver with four.6 is probably going to be de-activated, they have been amazed.  One passenger stated, “Oh I feel so bad now. I almost always give drivers 4 stars – unless they do something really amazing.”

Nope, I stated,  “For a driver a 4 star rating is the kiss of death. It’s like you’re saying to the company, this driver should not be using our platform.”

Power Games

For drivers and passengers, the power to price is a type of energy.  Online message boards are full of tales of drivers retaliating by giving somebody a low score, and final week I came across this publish on a board:

It truly instructs college students on campuses to “blast” drivers by giving them a one star score for no cause in any respect – amongst different issues.  Ratings are like an influence journey to some individuals, however the scores instantly have an effect on the livelihood of many individuals who depend on this gig to make ends meet.

Bad Ratings for Things You Can’t Control

Often if a passenger is new to the platform, they’ll assume that the score is concerning the firm, not the driving force.  If they get hit with a heavy surge, they’ll typically take it out on the driving force within the type of a low score.  If a driver will get caught in a visitors jam, the passenger might really feel it’s the fault of the driving force.

They’ll then ding the driving force as a result of they assume the driving force ought to have recognized higher.  In UberPOOL and LyftLine, delays in choosing up secondary passengers can get blamed on the driving force.  Even altercations between passengers in an UberPOOL typically trigger low scores.  None of this stuff are issues underneath the management of the driving force.

No Opportunity to Challenge a Low Rating

One time I gave a Lyft to a lady in San Francisco who left her cellphone within the automotive.  It was my final experience of the night time and instantly after dropping her off, I turned off my cellphone and went residence.  I didn’t get the message about her misplaced cellphone till the subsequent morning.

When I awoke, I additionally observed that my scores had plunged in a single day.  I knew it had to be her, as a result of it was the one experience I’d given on the Lyft platform that night time. She apparently had gone into such a panic about her cellphone, and the truth that I wasn’t responding that she dinged me.  I contacted Lyft help, defined the state of affairs and requested to have the poor score eliminated. “Sorry, we will’t do this,”  I used to be informed.

No Feedback

The score techniques are designed in such a method to masks the supply of a low score. One can definitely perceive why Uber / Lyft may need to shield passengers from potential retaliation, however by doing in order that they preclude the potential for offering the driving force with suggestions which may assist them enhance as a driver.  Compliments actually don’t assist there.

What can be helpful can be particular feedback on what you may need executed incorrect – and proper.  Lyft used to embrace a replica of the remark by the passenger and give you a chance to reply.  They not embrace the remark.  They offer you one thing obscure and ask you to reply – typically with out specifying what you’ve been accused of.  Uber’s strategy is much more opaque.

A Fiercely Competitive Corporate Culture

The harshness of the score system is not any accident. For the longest time I figured this type of worry based mostly motivational system was directed primarily at drivers, however with current revelations from Uber staff, we now know this fiercely aggressive angle is baked into their company tradition.  Here’s a quote from a current article in Quartz that discusses this problem.

In interviews with Quartz, half a dozen present and former staff described the corporate’s inner evaluation course of as aggressive, very unfair, and a black field. Uber managers rank their staff twice a yr on a scale from one (low) to 5 (excessive). Three is common, 5 so uncommon that it’s reserved for Jesus or Travis, one former worker joked.

Employees who obtain twos or ones are thought-about underperformers and positioned on efficiency enchancment plans, which additionally serve to warn that they could possibly be fired or let go down the road. There are different penalties to a low score. Being an underperformer means not having the ability to switch groups, a number of individuals informed Quartz, a plight additionally described by Fowler in her weblog submit. Ratings additionally have an effect on worker bonuses, that are granted largely in fairness. If you get a really excessive efficiency score, that may be a means to do very properly, a former worker stated. Uber declined to remark for this story. 

It’s comprehensible why Uber would need to foster a tradition of fierce competitiveness. Ride-hailing is a cutthroat and unforgiving business that many consider has room for just one winner. As probably the most extremely valued startup on the planet, at $68 billion, Uber is underneath an incredible quantity of strain from buyers to produce outcomes and has little if any margin for error. That its staff are held to equally exacting requirements ought to hardly be shocking. 

It’s All About Perception

After driving for 3 years and writing this weekly roundup for nearly two years, I’ve discovered one factor about Uber (and Lyft) –  it’s all about notion.  They’ve dubbed 2017 the yr of the driving force to create the notion that the corporate cares about drivers.  So too it’s with scores.  If a passenger will get a four.eight rated driver, that positive appears so much higher than in the event that they get a three.eight driver.  The score system is all about belief.

The guys who started this entire rideshare factor acknowledged this at the start.  They had to tackle one elementary query – how are we going to create enough belief to persuade individuals to get into automobiles with full strangers?  When you consider that, it’s fairly darn superb that folks do this now with no second thought. The purpose is straightforward: the score system creates the notion that the platform is protected, for drivers and passengers.  And if each are within the behavior of giving the opposite 5 star scores, a lot the higher. But that also doesn’t make the system truthful.

Uber vs Lyft Ratings System

There are minor variations between the Uber and Lyft score techniques however they’re primarily the identical. Both are 5 star techniques, and each put the passenger within the dominant place.  The massive distinction is that Uber averages your final 500 rides, whereas Lyft solely consists of your 100 most up-to-date rides.

In impact, the Uber strategy provides drivers marginally extra peace of thoughts. It’s not fairly tenure as a driver, however no less than you realize that one or two one star scores gained’t break you. But apparently that’s about to change (in some cities a minimum of).

According to Christian Perea, my colleague at RSG, Uber is testing a brand new strategy, utilizing (like Lyft) the final 100 rides in sure markets.  Christian writes, “they will probably test this at first in a few markets before deploying it elsewhere. Using the rolling 100 instead of 500 tends to be more favorable on ratings in my experience, and Uber has an interest in having drivers with ‘higher’ ratings, so my bet is that this gets rolled out pretty quickly.”

Why Ratings within the First Place?

There are a number of causes for scores, however I’m unsure any of them are really persuasive. Yes, scores do put a sort of worry within the drivers and retains them in line. That’s the intention, however is that worry issue actually needed as a motivational software?  Do we’ve any examples of techniques that don’t use scores?  What would occur with out scores? Would Uber’s degree of service all of a sudden devolve, a downward spiral finally bottoming out someplace close to taxis?

There is no less than one instance of a system that doesn’t use scores and has completed fairly properly.  When Uber/Lyft pulled out of Austin, a number of startups crammed the void, together with Ride Austin.  It’s doing fairly properly. It doesn’t use scores, and it really works simply high-quality. According to one driver in Austin, he not stresses about whether or not his Uber score is excessive sufficient, or if he’ll manage to pay for for his three youngsters. He likes the nonprofit facet of Ride Austin, the service he spends most of his time driving for.

What Can Uber / Lyft do to Improve the Current Rating System?

With all of the destructive press of late, Uber seems to be in soul looking mode, and this simply may be the fitting time to re-consider scores. With minimal funding, they might curry favor with drivers by fixing a significantly flawed system:

1.  Provide extra suggestions as a part of the score system.

2.  Educate passengers – it’s a easy matter.  On the display that seems earlier than the 5 star score choice comes up, they might have a message to the impact:  If a driver common score is four.6 or decrease, they’re in peril of being deactivated or  If you price a passenger four stars or decrease, you make a press release this driver shouldn’t be driving on our platform.

three.  Adjust the algorithms to think about a passenger’s tendencies on scores.  This is probably probably the most impactful factor Uber can do to make the system extra truthful.  I obtained the concepts for this on a current journey I gave to a knowledge engineer in San Francisco.

We have been speaking concerning the score system and then he requested how the system may be improved. I stated, “Uber has the data on passenger ratings.  Let’s say they keep a running average of all the ratings a passenger has given drivers and one passenger comes out at 4.0. Would it be possible to factor that into the affect that passenger’s bias on ratings into the driver’s rating?”

“Easy.”  he stated. “Just include the differential from the mean …”

“Explain.” I stated.

“Okay: if a particular passenger is in the habit of rating drivers 4.0 and they rate a particular driver a 4.0, then that has no affect on the driver’s overall rating average.  If that same passenger rates a driver a 5.0, then the driver gets a +1 boost. If they give the driver a 3.0, they get a -1 detraction and so on.”

“Genius,”  I stated, “That way the system automatically knows which passengers typically rate harshly, and accounts for it, automatically.”

Yes,” he stated, “It would additionally give higher weight to a passenger who virtually all the time charges drivers and out of the blue provides a four or a three.

“Would that be easy to do?”  I requested.

“Really easy, he replied, “Piece of cake.”

Yep, I assumed,  that method Uber might eat their cake and have it too. 

Readers, what do you consider these concepts for enhancing the score system? What recommendations do you’ve gotten for Uber and Lyft to enhance their scores methods, or do you assume the system is truthful as is?

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-John @ RSG

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John Ince is a former Fortune reporter and Wall Street banker. He has about 1,000 rides underneath his belt driving half time for Uber and Lyft.  He’s writing a e-book about his experiences entitled:  Travels With Vanessa:  A Rideshare Driver Tries To Make Sense of It all – For a sneak peak go to the hyperlink above.

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