Reviews on marketplaces

Uber drivers average a 4.8 rating.

Lyft drivers a 4.86.

Average Yelp restaurant reviews are 3.71

What’s the difference?

Is the average Uber driver delivery a better experience than the average restaurant on Yelp? I don’t think so. Is Uber deleting bad reviews? I don’t think so.

Part of this is selection bias. Uber and Lyft police their platforms in a way Yelp can’t. Bad drivers get kicked out. But I think that’s only part of the story, based on my own experience managing a system with many tens of millions of reviews.

My hypothesis: People rate versus expectations. Most experiences, Uber ride, meal, whatever, meet expectations. And for Americans, meeting expectations means you get five stars.

If you’re consistently not meeting expectations, you’re going to be kicked out of the platform or you’ll go out of business (or clean up your act, in which case your average rating should improve).

So, how does this explain the difference between Yelp and Uber? Uber knows whenever you take a ride and prompts you to review. The share of rides that generate a rating on Uber is probably very high. If most people leave reviews, and the typical experience is a five star experience, most reviews on the system will be five star.

It’s very different for Yelp. Unlike Uber or Lyft or OpenTable, Yelp typically doesn’t know when you’ve been to a restaurant. They can’t prompt you to review your typical five-star meal. Only a tiny fraction of dining events are reviewed on Yelp, and for many people it’s going to take something exceptional to get them to seek out Yelp and choosing to leave a comment.

An exceptionally good experience can’t get better than a 5-star rating. There’s a lot more room to move down. Hence lower average ratings.

Originally on Twitter.