He's found it! The cure for ratings fatigue

Unique Observations and Unpopular Opinions by Ben Martin

Ok, so, the other day I got the semi-annual survey request from the Royals asking for an update on how they are doing.

I eagerly opened it up looking for where I could tell them my blunt opinions on the two most important things that impact my enjoyment of going to the “K.”


First, put a decent team on the field, for crying out loud! Actually, there is a lot of talent on this team, but they are not winning. Ok, so my first point really was to hire someone who can manage a team so that it can win! The second, and clearly most important point, was to equip all the upper level seats at the ‘K’ with cupholders. I’m tired of knocking over my beer or my neighbor’s 360 Vodka concoction every time I want to stand up and move.

It’s probably clear I was ready to rant and rave. Then I discovered the format of the survey was going to make that difficult. In front of me was a 1 through 10 scale with “Not at All Satisfied” at one end and “Extremely Satisfied” at the other.

Now, I get what each end of the scale conveys. A number ‘1’ means I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore to quote the character of Howard from the movie Network. If I choose ‘10’ then things are so rosy that the Royals ought to set off fireworks and throw confetti each time they see that reply. My guess is not many of those celebrations are happening this year. But what do all those numbers in between mean?

This reminded me of other surveys I had received from airlines, hotels, restaurants, and the most irritating of all, Uber.

How was I supposed to assign an accurate evaluation of service to a number? And, if I did assign any number less than the wildly enthusiastic 5 or 10, depending on the scale, was I in line with others who filled out the same survey?

When it comes to Uber, especially, the star system seemed especially skewed. If I gave any less than 5 Stars to a driver, suddenly he or she became a pariah who could never connect with a rider. “He only has a 4.2 rating? He must either be a reckless driver or more likely a serial killer! I’m not riding with him!”

The vagueness of the rating system combined with the desire to reward a good person who has rendered decent service results in an inevitable inflation of scores. As a result, the scores are basically meaningless. Even the most average service can result in a perfect score.

So, here is my solution. I started doing this for response surveys for meetings I conducted the last few years, and I think I’m getting more accurate responses. First, the numbers must be accompanied by a description of what each number means. Second, the middle score should be where the scores are for most hotels, restaurants, drivers, street sweepers, US Postal Service employees . . . you get my point. There is no shame to getting a middle score, if the middle score indicates you received the expected and competent service you originally signed on for. The 7-point scale might look something like this.

  1. How did this person or establishment ever get a license to provide this service? Problems occurred at every step of the process making this a completely unpleasant experience. Please find another job! You should thank me for not reporting you to the authorities. Describe the service provided and why it was found to be so woefully incompetent…

  2. The service was delivered, but enough problems were present to make it difficult to enjoy the experience. This provider needs some extra training or a commitment to do a better job. Thanks for trying. Describe the service provided and suggest improvements to help this provider achieve a consistent level of competence…

  3. The expected level of service was provided, overall, but with some deficiencies. I was still able to enjoy the ride/stay/meal, but my attention was drawn to the problems along the way. Thanks. Describe the service provided and identify areas that can be improved…

  4. The expected level of service. No deficiencies were noted and I enjoyed my ride/stay/meal. Thank you. Describe the service provided and why it met your expectations…

  5. The expected level of service with some extra touches that added to the experience. Thank you very much. Describe the service provided and highlight the added touches…

  6. This experience went well beyond what I expected. A surprising level of service that made me feel special and important. Thank you so much for the experience. Describe the service provided and what aspects created these special feelings for you…

  7. This provider may be one of the top 10 I’ve ever encountered in this field. Every detail of the service was provided in a spectacular way. Not only will I recommend this service to others, I want to be able to experience it over and over again myself. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your efforts over and above what I expect or deserve. If the rater is able to come down from Cloud Nine, please try to put into words how special this experience was…

This system, while not perfect, provides a clear sense of what each number means to the potential rater. It is easy and acceptable to award a ‘4’ because the provider did nothing wrong and satisfied our expectations at every level. Levels ‘2-3’ require the reviewer to actually identify specific problems that influenced their rating. Hopefully, no one ever experiences a level ‘1’. The levels above ‘4’ are clearly reserved for those who have exceeded our expectations. Level ‘7’s description hopefully makes it clear that awarding a ‘7’ is a rare and special occasion.

There you have it. The cure to ratings fatigue. No more numbers we have to try to guess the meaning of. Surveys that actually tell the provider what kind of performance they put forward.

Please, Royals, adopt this system so I can clearly show you how I feel about this season.

Oh, by the way, I finally found a section in their survey that allowed me to comment on specific ideas. So, when a cupholder shows up at your seat when you next sit in the view level — you’re welcome.


Ben Martin is a Lee's Summit resident, playwright, theater director and former teacher in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District. His periodically recurring columns offer uncertain observations and sometimes unpopular opinions from his life, travels and activities in the Lee's Summit Community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.