How Uber and Airbnb created the 5* consumer
How Uber and Airbnb created the 5* consumer
A view from Petya Pavlova

How Uber and Airbnb created the 5* consumer

A big trend for 2016 is going to be the two-way rating relationship between businesses and customers, according to Petya Pavlova, senior editorial analyst at...

Uber and Airbnb have humanised the taxi and the hotel industry and that can only be a good thing

Who can you trust to leave your room tidy? How can you tell whether someone will look after your dog? Which customers will meet your cab promptly? In the past, these questions have been difficult to answer. But now, you no longer have to trust blindly; because in an increasing number of marketplaces, it is not just the service providers who are being rated - it is those seeking the service.

Within peer-to-peer networks such as eBay, Airbnb and Uber, buyers and sellers have been rating each other for years. You do not just get a good rating for being a good seller; now, you have to pay promptly, behave well and act courteously if you are to receive the highest ratings as a buyer. The ‘best’ customers are lower risk and more likely to walk away satisfied: now that we know who they are, brands can sell preferentially to them, offering their best service and possibly even a better price.

Now we are seeing this rating dynamic become a powerful mechanism of incentivisation (even, at times, a threat). How many of your friends harbour a borderline paranoia about their Uber rating? Brands in all sectors are now embracing the power that comes from rating their customers and exerting the implicit behavioural incentives of the 5 star rating.

What opportunities are there for brands?

Foster Mutual Trust

45% of Future Foundation’s global respondents would be happy to be rated by a company whose services they have used. And just 18% would not. That’s because a two-way rating system isn’t just about keeping tabs on customers. It’s a hallmark of many industries that rely on mutual trust and respect. Saying to customers "we need you to behave well" is actually pretty similar to saying "we need you".

As our Swedish Trendspotter Sandy puts it, "I take extra care to be a nicer person – both when hosting Airbnbers and when travelling myself, and in Ubers I tend to talk more to the drivers than I did with normal taxi drivers. Uber and Airbnb have humanised the taxi and the hotel industry and that can only be a good thing."

Incentivise Good Behaviour

If you have used the taxi app Lyft recently, you might have received a text message like this one:

"Your last Lyft driver gave you a perfect 5 star rating!

Think you can get another one?

Take a ride this weekend to find out."

We all behave much more nicely in an Uber, and we don’t resent Uber for making us nicer people

Though subtlety might not be their strong point, Lyft is demonstrating quite clearly that there is an incentive for behaving well and a latent threat if you don’t.

This gets all the more interesting when a brand doesn’t actually say what happens if you score poorly. Uber doesn’t tell you what your score is (you can of course request it), and it doesn’t tell you how high it should be. But the mechanism allows them to exert a level of control. We all behave much more nicely in an Uber, and we don’t resent Uber for making us nicer people.

Will we see hotel guests making their own beds? Online shoppers putting handwritten notes in their returns? Customers being much nicer to your staff? Probably – not because you explicitly reward, but just because you might be watching.

Just like banks have access to your credit score, we reckon brands will have access to your Personality Score

The Aggregated Personality Score

So where does this all go? In the future we’re all being rated by brands, and each brand has a different opinion of us? Well, yes and no.

We expect some serious aggregation to take place. Take Traity – a startup that gives you a "reputation passport" that is service agnostic. "Imagine an Internet where you can trust everyone", they proclaim – and I can imagine that.

Just like banks have access to your credit score, we reckon brands will have access to your Personality Score. Do you return goods? Retweet? Complain? Brag? Pay promptly? Whatever you’re like, brands will soon be rewarding you for it and nudging you gently in the right direction.