Facebook's new rating system catches flak from some business owners

Small businesses are lashing out against a new star rating feature on the site

Criticism hurts -- especially when you're not sure where it's coming from, or why, and have no way to respond to it.

That's the feeling among some business owners, who say a new rating system that Facebook introduced to better compete with Yelp is actually doing more harm than good. The system, which is currently in a testing phase for the desktop version of Facebook, lets people leave ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, in addition to text reviews, on businesses' Facebook pages. So, if a simple "like" will not suffice, there's this.

But some small business owners say the system contains numerous flaws that have caused headaches for them and made it difficult to manage their companies' pages on Facebook. Among their complaints: The ratings can be left anonymously, sometimes with no real feedback attached to them, and without any way to respond to the reviews or correct mistakes in them.

Part of the issue is that the system allows for discrepancies between a business's overall rating and the reviews that are viewable on its page. The way the system works now, someone can write a positive review but leave a low star rating for the business, which is factored into its overall grade. That makes it hard, some business owners say, to understand what's really going on.

Reviewers have several privacy options for their reviews. So even though the reviewer's rating is factored into the business's average, the reviewer still has the option of making the written review public, or visible only to friends, or only to himself, among other settings.

For some businesses, that's led to confusion. "I would just like to be able to understand what the negative comments related to. Drinks? Food? Customer service? Wait time?" said Mary Hanson, on an anti-Facebook-ratings page that has sprung up since Facebook began testing the system.

"I do not have many reviews, so one or two low ratings can make a big difference for my business," said Hanson, the owner of Mary's Scone Shop, a store based in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin.

Others were more critical. "This ratings system is a broken feature," said Steve Miles, in a plea to remove the anonymous ratings. A new business of his that wasn't even opened yet had already received some 1-star ratings, probably from a former competitor, he said.

Some companies, in response, have selected a non-business category for their pages on Facebook, just to have the ratings removed, even if it means wiping out positive reviews in the process. In message boards, others have suggested some fairly technical work-arounds, such as deleting the address from their business page.

Still, other business owners said the system was generally a good thing for building brand awareness and engagement. "I'm not asking to retract the ratings," said Cathy Wallace, owner of The Mens Room, a consignment store in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Instead, she'd like Facebook to include a better way to let her respond to customers' complaints, either privately, or publicly on her company's page.

What she wants, she said, is a way to contact the reviewer, ask what happened, and say "sorry." Not that she would often need to: Her store currently holds an average rating of 4.5, based on 64 ratings.

Facebook could not comment for this article before press time.

It's common for major Internet companies like Facebook to try out new software and products and see what sticks. Twitter does "experiments" all the time, with new accounts to keep its users more in the know on certain topics. Google previously tried out its "Nexus Q," a black orb for streaming people's music. It was never released to the public.

These aren't always full-fledged, masterful products. But even if they're just in testing mode, the companies' tinkerings can have a huge impact on ordinary people's lives, given the size and influence of an online platform.

Business owners upset by Facebook's platform might be dealing with an unavoidable problem in the world of online reviews, when it comes to anonymity. Reviewers can post anonymously on Yelp, too. But they may not always stay secret. Just this week, a Virginia court ordered Yelp to hand over the identities of several people who left negative reviews anonymously for a carpet cleaning business.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: The Star's George Hughes

It's been an incredibly tough three months for the Star as it shut its doors and stood down staff in response to the COVID-19 lockdown. Yet innovation has shone through, and if the CMO, George Hughes, has anything to say about it, such lateral thinking will continue as we start to recover from the crisis.

More Videos

I am 56 years old and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease after four years of decreasing mobility to the point of having family dress ...

Nancy Tunick

Parkinson's NSW creates a lorem ipsum generator and goes digital to mark Parkinson's Awareness month

Read more

We would like to invite you to the Virtual Exhibition about IoT Trends in 2020, 7 - 9 July, organised by Must.We developed a new B2B matc...

hayfa

Want to master digital transformation? Stop thinking about your own problems

Read more

We have been trying to help our clients through this time. I think the important thing is clear communication! We also created some check...

Erin Payne

Is COVID-19 the right time for a positive marketing campaign?

Read more

Very good article Sagar. Congrats! It's exactly what we are doing at Dafiti and it's very important have you close to us into this journey.

Roosevelt Junior

Making Your Organisation Data-Driven [MYOD] - Data-driven marketing - CMO Australia

Read more

Corporates should be innovating to stay relevant and disrupt the market and collaborating with startups is easily the best way to go for ...

Diana

How your company can innovate its way through the COVID-19 crisis

Read more

Blog Posts

Business quiet? Now is the time to review your owned assets

For businesses and advertiser categories currently experiencing a slowdown in consumer activity, now is the optimal time to get started on projects that have been of high importance, but low urgency.

Olia Krivtchoun

CX discipline leader, Spark Foundry

Bottoms up: Lockdown lessons for an inverted marketing world

The effects of the coronavirus slammed the brakes on retail sales in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Fever-Tree’s Australia GM Andy Gaunt explains what they have learnt from some tricky months of trading

Andy Gaunt

General manager, Fever-Tree Australia and New Zealand

Younger demos thought lost are now found: But what about the missing money?

There is much talk about what VOZ will bring to the media industry. New ways to slice and dice audiences and segments. A clearer understanding of screen consumption. Even new ways to plan and buy. The most interesting result could be finding something many thought we lost - younger viewers, specifically the valuable 18-39s.

Michael Stanford

Head of 10 Imagine and national creative director, Network 10

Sign in