Low Uber Driver Rating? It’s Probably Your Own Fault

Are you tired of hearing passengers complaining about the quality of UberX going downhill?

When you drive for Uber’s Black/Premium luxury car service, you hear a lot of passengers talk about how they used to take UberX, but have since moved to Black/Premium because the quality of UberX has gone so far downhill, as Uber has continued to lower their prices.

After thinking about it though, I came to one big conclusion…The drivers who need help with their ratings are the last people to know about it.

I’ve talked to many drivers who have had low ratings and it seems like they all told me it wasn’t their fault.  They blame it on the rating system, which they swear is rigged.  No matter how many times I’ve told them it’s fair because every driver is under the exact same system, playing by the exact same rules, they still say it’s unfair!

They’ve also told me, without exception, that they’re great drivers, they’re friendly with the passengers, their cars are clean and for the life of them they can’t figure out why anyone would give them less than five stars.

So me being me, what did I do? I asked a few of these guys if I could take a quick ride with them just to see if I could spot anything wrong and help them out with a few tips.

Here’s what I found…

The first guy who took me for a ride had an old, moderately beat-up car with cloth seats.  I could see where passengers might rate him with 4 stars, just on account of his car.  But, I know passengers have gotten used to that kind of car so maybe it’s not a big factor.

The problem was, there was a moldy odor in his car, one that he obviously didn’t smell anymore, but it was the kind of odor that just made you want to get out of the car as quickly as possible.  He would easily get more four stars than normal just because of the odor.  But that, combined with the condition of his car, made it a certainty that he would get more less-than-five-star ratings than he should.

The next driver who let me ride with him, was a very nice guy, cleanly dressed, decent car, but he had an annoying habit of not slowing down for stops until the very last minute.  He would slam on the brakes just before the intersection!

I told him *that* could cause passengers to downrate him because they feel unsafe.  He said, “what’s that?”  I said, “the way you slam on the brakes just before a stop!”  He looked at me confused and said, “I slam on the brakes?”  I said, “YES!”  He said he didn’t realize he was doing that!

The third guy I rode with was very friendly, had a welcoming smile, but he wasn’t cleanly dressed, and although his car was nice and clean, he smelled like smoke!  And his car had a faint smoky odor.

When I mentioned it to him, he was absolutely clueless about it.  He said, “I smoke, but I do it outside the car and I never let the smoke go into the car.”  I sat down with him and told him the story of what happened when I stopped smoking.  I suddenly realized, the smoky odor sticks to everything it touches as it wafts by!  It gets on your clothes and you can smell it in your closet the next day.  But when you smoke, you don’t notice it at all.  You think you’re odor-free but anyone within 15 feet of you, who doesn’t smoke, can smell you coming!

The Impact of What I Found

I rode with three drivers, they each had obvious problems and all of them were completely oblivious to what their problems were.  Once I pointed them out, however, they immediately saw my point.  But that’s not always the case.  Some drivers want to argue with you and tell you you’re wrong – even though they have a much lower rating than you!

In New York, you have to have a rating of at least 4.80 to drive for Uber’s Black car service.  One UberX driver I knew desperately wanted to drive a Black car so he could make more, but his rating was 4.68.  I told him it would be nearly impossible to get that up to 4.80 anytime in the foreseeable future.

That’s a huge deficit and he would have to get several hundred 5 stars in a row to bring it up to 4.80.  But, he told me he was working at it and he was determined to do it. So, I offered my advice, which was that he should dress better.  This guy looked like a bum from the ghetto.  He was super nice, very warm and friendly, but he dressed like a slob who had lost the will to live!

He told me, “Oh, no, no, no!  It’s not my clothes.  I’ve always worn these clothes and my rating was 4.75 a few months ago.”  Then he added, “People don’t really care what you wear as long as you’re nice and drive well.”  This is one of those things people say and you just shake your head and give up!  I will just say this, clothes do matter.  In fact, everything matters!

Related: Uber Account Disabled: Surprising Things That Could Get You Deactivated

Accepting Low Ratings

For most drivers, including myself, it comes as a bit of shock when you get your first rating that’s less than 5 stars!  We agonize over it!  “What could we possibly have done wrong?”  “Which passenger was it who didn’t give me 5 stars?”  “Who out there hates me!?”  And, “What is it about me that they hate!?”  “Why is everyone against me!”  All these gnawing questions that eat at our self-confidence begin to fill our minds.  So, yes, it is jarring when you get your first less-than-five-star rating.

So, I’ll let you in on a little secret… nobody gets 5 stars all the time.  There is always somebody who will think your service is not worth 5 stars.  The big question though is, can it be unfair?

At times, yes.  But, over time no!  That’s because over time everyone will get the rating they deserve.  And the reason is because the people rating you don’t know each other.  They didn’t conspire together to bring you down!  And they have no way to influence how any other passenger will rate you.

In the end, you are the only one who can exercise some influence on every passenger to give you a good rating.  That means that over time after a few hundred ratings have come in, you are the only common denominator in the process.  Therefore, your final rating reflects YOU!

The Fairness of Uber’s Rating System

But how fair is it?

We all know that sometimes people will accidentally hit 4 stars when they thought everything about you was perfectly fine, and they really should have given you 5 stars. But, the percentage of ratings that passengers give that are a little lower than they should have been – is the same for all drivers.  And since, every driver is measured on the same scale, and under the same conditions, it is fair.

If all drivers in a given area have 4-star ratings at least 3% of the time, then Uber doesn’t care about the first 3% of your 4-star ratings.  It’s the difference between you and other drivers that they care about.  It’s the drivers who get 4-star ratings 6% of the time that they start to notice.  It’s the difference in results between you and all other drivers that makes all the difference.

In New York, a driver who has a 4.80 rating is considered very good because most New York drivers have something less than that.  But, in another city a 4.80 might not be considered good at all.  If the majority of drivers in that city have a 4.85 or above, then a 4.80 would be considered on the low side of average.

In the end, each driver is compared to every other driver in his driving area.

It is assumed that each driver will get the same proportion of “accidental 4-star” ratings.  So, if every driver has 3% of his passengers accidentally rating him with 4 stars, then that is not going to mean anything to Uber.  It’s the drivers for whom 4-star ratings make up 6% of their ratings who will start to get noticed by the big wigs at headquarters.

Fixing “Unfair”

Every now and then I’ll hear a driver suggest that Uber should do something to change the system so every driver could have a higher rating.  One suggestion I hear often is that they would like Uber to automatically convert all non-ratings to 5 stars.  When I first heard this idea, I thought, that sounds good.  Until I thought about it for another few seconds!

These drivers want Uber to take all the passengers who don’t leave a rating within 24 hours and convert their non-rating to a 5-star rating.  It makes sense because you can assume if the person didn’t bother to rate you – it was because they didn’t find anything wrong or annoying enough to warrant a rating.  So, why not get an automatic 5 stars for trips where the passenger didn’t find anything significantly wrong?

The reason this wouldn’t help is because all drivers’ ratings would improve by the same percentage.  If your 4.75 suddenly goes up to 4.80, then the guy who was at 4.80 is now at 4.85.  You still haven’t caught up to him!  And if Uber’s minimum rating for your city was 4.70 – they would now have to raise it to 4.75.  Now that you’re at 4.80, you’re still just five basis points ahead of the minimum.  And that’s exactly where you stood before Uber introduced this change into the system.

That’s why you can say that an improvement to the system that helps all drivers, helps no driver.

Any change in the system that would help all drivers, would help them by the same percentage.  Therefore, there would be no relative change between you and other drivers.  The only systemic change that might actually benefit you, would be a change to the system, that only affects YOU!  Only with that kind of change would you be able to rise in comparison to other drivers.  But any other systemic change that applies equally to all, will in the end help no one.

My Take

As far as specific advice on how to improve your ratings, there are thousands of articles online that will give you the standard advice, like offer water to your passengers, add a tipping sign, keep your car clean, drive safely, etc.  That’s the standard advice.  And all of that is good.

I have one piece of advice though that I bet you’ll never read anywhere else… and it’s a piece of advice that applies universally.

No matter where you live, this advice applies.  I’m not going to tell you what kind of shirt to wear or anything that specific.  But I am going to give you a piece of advice that if followed, will do more to help your ratings than anything else.

My advice is:

Dress and talk as much like your most upscale passengers as you possibly can.  If you drive in a beach resort during the summer, then dress as close to how you imagine your high-end customers dress at work, as you can.  And when I say “as close to how” they would dress at work, I don’t mean to dress exactly like they do, but I mean dress close to it.

For instance, I work in Manhattan, which is commerce central.  It’s all about business, serious business.  The people here dress very professionally.  Guys wear suits and ties, so I wear something close to that.  I ditch the suit and the tie actually.

But, I wear the same kind of dress pants and dress shirts that they wear.  I don’t dress up as much as they do – because I don’t work in an office – I basically drive a cab!  So they don’t expect you to be wearing a jacket and a tie.  But when they see my clothes, which are basically the same as they’d wear on a casual Friday, they immediately feel comfortable with me.

And I think that does wonders for my rating (which is 4.90 and is in the top one half of one percent of all 50,000 New York City drivers).

My final and last piece of advice is about your speech.

You should try to talk as much like your most upscale passengers as possible.  If your most upscale riders speak with good grammar, then learn to speak with good grammar if you don’t already.  If they don’t speak with perfect grammar, then you shouldn’t either!  Imitate their speech.

There is nothing that makes a rider feel more comfortable than to be with a driver who sounds like them and dresses like them.  Just doing those two things alone, will do wonders for your ratings.  Do the other stuff too, obviously!  Drive safely, keep your car clean, be polite and friendly – and then add these two last things to that – and you’re golden!


Now over to you: What do you think of Uber’s driver rating policy? Do you think drivers are getting fair ratings? Drop your opinion below. Ready….go!

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