What’s in a star?

What’s in a star?

Do star rating systems really depict capability or the quality of services we engage?

Have you ever noticed that just about every rating system used by online platforms adopts a star rating system? From phone surveys on call centre performance through to google reviews, online travel sites to business services providers, gig workers like Uber drivers or Airtasker or Hire a Tradie sites, these systems are part of everyday life and have an impact on customer mindset and ultimately even the success or failure of a business.

But do they really reflect what we need to know about the service, product or provider? And, what influence do they have on our decision making when we’re presented with other consumers views of a product or service? Let’s take a look…..


Business/Professional Ratings

In the business world, LinkedIn started as a professional networking tool…then ‘skill endorsements’ were introduced. It seemed like a great idea and certainly had merit from a user engagement perspective. Pop ups or messages would come through that people had endorsed you for some skill or other and as we do, most feel inclined to reciprocate the favour. No doubt it’s a great way to raise your profile.

Problem is, anyone who was connected to anyone could endorse them for anything, regardless of whether you’ve worked closely with them or not. Great for your ego, but does it really help you or get taken seriously by those seeking to engage your services?

Then we have Google My Business. (Rosehaven, the ABC Comedy starring Luke McGregor featured the lengths businesses go to get a rating on google). But don’t place too much weight in these reviews. Anyone can create a google account and provide reviews, so it’s not uncommon for businesses to find creative ways to generate 5 star reviews.

So are these ratings reliable? With any star rating system, a good approach is to discount the best and the worst to find some ‘reliable’ middle ground.


Online service platforms

Uber has a system that is based on user experience but with a star system. There was some powerful marketing tactics at work in the early stages. Who can forget the pursuit of the five star ratings from every driver and rider in the business? The push for five stars was a real focus, we even heard radio presenters talking about their rider rating as if it was a competition, or provided some sort of social proof on personal credibility.

Fast forward a few years and the normalisation of this market product is fascinating. Gone are the mints and water bottles. Gone are the significantly lower fees.

The key question on star rating systems is “Do we really think the service was actually five stars? The answer I feel is because individuals find it harder to score people low, a service has to be particularly bad in order for us to give a low rating.

So are these rating systems wrong? Should we be concerned about them?

What’s clear is that any rating system purely based on awarding stars or worse still, can be awarded or provided by someone who has not experienced the service or actually worked with the provider is flawed. In fact it can be very misleading and cause people’s liking for well rated providers to disregard those who are actually bloody good at what they do.


So what does a good Rating System look like?

The best Review Rating systems must be the ones that require the rater to actually do business with the service provider in order to earn the right to provide feedback on the service/product. These reviews given are based on a user’s real experience and provide us with a greater level of trust. They will not be reflected by awarding a number of stars alone, but they should provide the basis on why the rating has been provided. They will genuinely include real written endorsements reflecting the quality of work and experience of the person who engaged the service. These are the endorsements service providers will promote, endorsements that reflects their capability to future clients to consider when competing for business.

We live in a more transparent world than ever before, with an incredible amount of information at our fingertips. Information that can be as dangerous as it is beneficial.

In all of this, two key themes emerge; TRANSPARENCY & TRUST.


CircleSource’s approach to Ratings and Recommendations

So when we created www.circlesource.com, there was plenty of discussion around what an appropriate rating system looked like. We landed on two aspects that those we spoke to in the market told us; TRANSPARENCY & TRUST. We wanted the market to be able to see what was going on AND be able to rely on the recommendations and endorsements in the knowledge they were based on real experiences and business transactions completed between the parties.

Most importantly, we wanted suppliers to trend in our business services platform based on real business transactions completed through the platform. Real recommendations and endorsements provided by real customers.

Click here to read more about The CircleSource Difference.