Trend Watch: Rate the Rater

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Word-of-mouth can determine whether businesses thrive and die! When people share their good (or not-so-good) stories, an organizations’ reputation quickly spreads. While word-of-mouth still occurs over cups of coffee and through our friends and associates, it has also become a huge on-line business. Organizations like Yelp, Amazon ratings, Angie’s List or RateMyProfessor.com are all common ways that we research products, businesses or people. As a result, they are also a modern use the word-of-mouth phenomenon.

However, on-line sources and ratings are still susceptible to misuse. Can you recall the last time you read a rating that sounded rehearsed or was the only five star review amidst a slew of one star ratings? Conversely, businesses have also used this system to attack competitors with negative ratings as an unethical way of eliminating competition. Since many organizations live and die by these ratings, an entire industry of fake ratings or ratings-for-pay has emerged.

While this challenge will never be fully eliminated, there is a recent trend which provides hope. The solution is simple – rate-the-rater! In traditional rating systems, you buy a product from Amazon. After the transaction is complete you are given the opportunity to rate-the-seller! In a rate-the-rater system, the business also gets to rate you, the purchaser!

This is not new and has already been used effectively with some organizations. For example, our AirBnB Coachella guests rated us after their stay in our home (a five star rating system). However, as hosts we were also given the opportunity to rate these same AirBnB guests. Uber uses a similar system and drivers are able to rate their customers. This allows other drivers to determine the quality of their potential fare. In turn, this helps balance a system that, historically, has favored the purchaser!

A rate-the-rater system creates accountability as we can no longer offer scathing reviews without some level of consequence. It is a unique application of The Golden Rule – treating others as you want to be treated. When rating becomes a two-way process, an amazing change occurs in what you say. While I will still leave a negative review, my language changes when I know that the company will potentially also be reviewing me. This limits my rants or inflammatory language.

This change also reminds us that privacy is something that no longer exists (see The Death of Privacy). It also teaches us that our on-line ratings are one more thing that we must manage in our on-line lives. Potential employers are already reviewing our Facebook, Instagram and other social media pages to assess our character. I expect that your on-line rating will be yet another aspect of this within the next five years.

As usual, this trend has both upsides and downsides. However, no matter what your personal views are, this shift will occur. So I encourage you to begin managing your on-line ratings like this trend has already happened. Because it has! Rate-the-rater is here to stay!


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

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