Rating Service: Gaming the System

The Barometer has noted the presence of a nearly instantaneous quality-of-service survey in her inbox seconds after Clear has “cleared” her through TSA airport security.  Except in Atlanta.  The Atlanta airport is a mess.  The Clear lines there serpentine in a Disney World manner and length.  You pay extra fees to Clear to avoid lines. In the case of Atlanta, however, Clear has managed to make its lines longer than the lines for those who just show upsand get in the short lines. Clear has high ratings if you can skew the data.

When the Barometer has her car serviced, there will be e-mails and calls of warning, “If you are not satisfied with your service experience, let me know so that I can fix it before you fill out a survey that is coming from the auto manufacturer.”  How will the manufacturer know what dealerships really do a good job if the dealership is hiding problems and cooking the customer surveys?

The survey madness was the focus of a book called “The Ultimate Question.”  That question (s) is “Are you likely to return to ________?” or “How likely are you to recommend ________?” Supposedly, good numbers on those questions translate to successful businesses. But not if you are fooling around with strategies pre-survey.

Airbnb owners are posting “Vacation Rental Rating Guides” to persuade guests to use the appropriate number of stars. Grade inflation in rental property evaluations.! Fours star actually means average as renters follow their instruction sheets.

The average score on Airbnb evaluations is 4.5.  So, you get an average rating that is recorded as excellent.   Then there are the guests who refuse to give a bad score, fearful of hurting the owner.  Hello renters! Airbnbers and other property rental firms just charged you $600 a night for a house that was cleaned by a 13-year-old neighbor.  A little negativity could help their business if they were willing to listen.

No one listens. No one speaks, at least truthfully  So, this odd world of surveys has brought us feedback of excellence without the disclosure of the baggage of gaming the system. Without Atlanta, Clear looks great. A car dealership gets fabulous service ratings, until you get there and experience the reality of manipulated data. With a ratings sheet posted on the refrigerator that tells customers what to put, all Airbnb properties are a slice of heaven. Owners achieve the highest ratings possible even when the floors are filthy.

The ultimate question has, ironically, fooled the customers.  Everyone is too busy gaming the system to be bothered by details about improving service and eliminating glitches.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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