Lawyers may not be fans of ratings systems, as I’ve posted previously. But what lawyers, or bar associations think about ratings doesn’t matter, if clients think otherwise. And as the Washington Post reports, increasingly, consumers are turning to ratings to make decisions about service providers like real estate agents, plumbers and movers. Moreover, at least one of the sites discussed — Angies List — now reviews dentists and doctors.
In contrast to lawyers, you won’t find other service providers complaining about ratings services or trying to shut them down. In fact, the Post points out that companies find feedback as just as important as consumers: “The good and bad reviews keep us on our toes,” said 1-800-GOT-JUNK? spokeswoman Shaye Hoobanoff. “During these tough real estate times, customers are more cautious about what service they use and base much of their decision on real customer feedback, not just the stuff that people pick and choose to advertise on their Web site.”According to O’Keefe of VCU, the growth of consumer reviews can improve the quality of services.”It tends to raise the level of everyone’s game. The weak are getting found out, the strong companies are being rewarded, and it’s raising those in the vast middle,” he said.
But what about the potential for complaints by disgruntled customers or sabotage by competitors? Thus far, the ratings companies are dealing with the potential for mischief by spot checking reviews and using computer programs to weed out false comments.
Lawyers had better wake up – we can’t insulate ourselves from ratings systems much longer. After all, why should lawyers be exempt from ratings when real estate agents or plumbers or doctors or dentists aren’t? Instead of trying to shut down ratings systems, which are inevitable, lawyers should instead develop strategies to encourage positive feedback and minimize the adverse effects of negative impacts.