For Uber, Airbnb, and others, customer reviews go both ways

Travelers are often asked to provide feedback on their hotel, restaurant and car service. But more and more, it goes both ways.

Uber and Lyft drivers, for example, give their passengers a rating of one to five stars at the end of each ride. If a passenger receives three stars or less, the driver and passenger will no longer be matched. And at OpenTable, the restaurant reservation system, customers are banned if they don’t show up too often for a reservation.

These are among the ways in which sophisticated rating systems can excite the client, identifying the best and the worst of them.

Harry Campbell, an Uber driver in Orange County, Calif., Says he reserves his lowest score only for the most egregious cases.

He remembers picking up two young women who “didn’t look so drunk”, but one of them threw up in his car. “I was done for the night,” he said. He gave her the lowest score and billed her for the cleaning fee.

Another time, Mr Campbell said, a passenger asked him to go to an ATM to withdraw money, go to another part of town and wait five minutes while the passenger disappeared. briefly in a dilapidated house, then whisked her away to one final destination. “It looked like a drug buy, and I didn’t want to drive this guy anymore, so I gave him a low rating,” he said.

The low rating is not reserved for Mr. Campbell’s use. Each passenger’s consolidated ratings are visible to other Uber drivers, and drivers can choose not to support passengers with low ratings.

Lyft spokesperson Katie Dally said the service was meant to replicate “having a friend with a car” and that a two-way rating system was part of the equalization of the equation between driver and car. the passenger.

Uber did not respond to requests for comment.

Rating systems allow companies to formalize an old practice: to focus on their best customers.

The worst customers “demand too much, complain too much and cost too much,” said Christopher Muller, professor of hotel management at Boston University.

Beyond that, he said, bad customers make employees unhappy. Businesses, he said, do better by devoting time to their best and most profitable customers. “It sounds drastic, but not all customers are created equal,” he said.

Hotels are well known for following the preferences of their customers.

“If a guest complains that the room was not cleaned early enough in the day, we will write it down in their file and schedule the cleaning to change that,” said David Teich, general manager of the Windsor Court Hotel to The News -Orléans.

But they can also save when the customer gets lost. “If they smoked in the room, we note whether we had to charge them for the extra cleaning,” Mr. Teich said. “If we had to ask them to shut up because the neighboring rooms complained, we might write it down so that next time we can put them in a room down the hall.

While customer tracking systems are generally intended for internal use only, customers who use the Airbnb online reservation service to find accommodation may be publicly reviewed.

This allows potential hosts to see how a guest was viewed by previous guests before agreeing to allow that person to stay in their home.

Donna Persico is renting a second apartment she owns in Portland, Oregon, through Airbnb and said she always checks the reviews of guests who request to stay there. “It reassures me to know a little more about who comes in,” she said.

Shauna Angel Blue also pays close attention to a guest’s comments before welcoming her to a room in her Chicago apartment, which she has been renting for two years through Airbnb.

Most of the reviews she reads are positive, she said, with phrases like “would welcome them anytime” or “like family.” But when she comes across more ambiguous reviews, like the one that says, “We struggled at first but things went well,” she understands that means the guest was probably very demanding.

“I would probably choose someone else to stay with me,” she said.

Two-way reviews have been a part of Airbnb since its inception. The website notes that the business community “relies on honest and transparent reviews.” A spokesperson, Amanda Smith, said that “the human element is essential to build trust and allows other members of the Airbnb community to better understand what to expect.”

Catering systems for tracking guests aren’t as prevalent as hotel management systems, Muller said, if only because a guest presents a credit card after a meal, rather than at their end. arrival.

But as in the accommodation and auto service industries, technology is contributing to this change. The OpenTable online restaurant reservation system allows a restaurant to identify customers who have reserved through the system.

Using OpenTable, each restaurant can take private notes about guests, such as indicating their table location preference or whether they often return their food. These ratings are not shared with other restaurants.

“Most restaurants use the ratings feature to improve the hospitality experience for their customers,” said spokesperson Tiffany Fox.

She added that it would ban a customer who does not show up for a reservation four times in a 12-month period.

Customers can become concerned about privacy as more information is collected and shared about them, Muller said, and it would be easy for a hotel chain to cross the line between good customer service and being overly intrusive. .

“If a hotel knows I like a foam pillow, that’s fine,” he said, “but if I tell a waiter I’m lactose intolerant, I don’t want them in. this in a database where every employee in the country has access to this health fact.

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