“Q-score”: a way to improve star-rating systems

July 2016–Some things should always be as high-quality as possible.

Resumes are an example; it’s never smart to stop working on a resume before it’s as good as possible, whether to save time or effort (assuming one wants the job). Books are another example. Books (“ways to transmit knowledge”) always increase in value as they increase in quality–maybe recognized as accuracy or utility. I would expect most people to agree that the quality one book has, compared to another, can be easily recognized by most members of its target audience. If so, we can assume one day we will rate books in real-time (e.g. on our kindle devices) and the quality rating will be a major purchasing factor for potential readers.

Before moving on, the three-factor buying assessment should be explained. In undergrad, Professor Lynch explained people only choose a product because of three possible reasons–it’s either better at meeting their need, it’s more convenient, and/or it’s cheaper than the alternative products. Another way to put it is “quality, speed, or price”. Take any item/service you buy and your decision to buy it fell into one or more of these categories. This principle is both accurate and useful, a rare and coveted combination for models. Let’s consider how this applies to purchasing in the future.

In the future, people will still buy based on quality/speed/price. Thus, they will need effective ways to discern which products compete on which aspects. Mercedes Benz competes on quality, first. Kia probably won’t ever. Currently, how do car buyers tell which offers better price? They look at the price, it’s an absolute comparison–objective. How do they know which is more convenient to purchase? Simple–which dealership is closer to home (and to their mechanic, etc.)? Which offers more quality? Here’s where a gap in the process exists. In this example of Mercedes vs Kia, the average consumer probably assumes Mercedes’ cars provide more quality–likely true. Whether quality is leather seats, top speed, design, there exist such popular and shared opinions that no research is really needed to determine Kia is a lower quality car. However, some nuances exist. First, these two cars are targeted to different customers (I mean the “typical” Kia vs a “typical” Benz). Thus, it would be harder to discern quality of a Kia vs a Mitsubishi. It would also be much harder to know if a Benz or a BMW had more quality without research. That may not be the case in the future. While price will always be a numerical, absolute assessment, and convenience (of purchase and ownership/use) is basically the same (as easy to know) as price, quality could be made much easier to determine without requiring significant research.

We already see early examples of this–Amazon’s success is largely attributed to the extensive customer reviews they’ve amassed and made accessible to potential customers. Ask five people how they determine which restaurant to choose; most will say Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google reviews play a large role. What’s funny is that these are just  examples of word-of-mouth. What’s also important to note is that two other key pieces of info are always presented by Amazon/Yelp–a price rating, and some clear measure of convenience (“in-stock”/two-day shipping or in Yelp, results have distance, are ordered by how close to your location they are). What this tells us is that customer reviews are very powerful and are focused on quality.

Why aren’t they just called “Q-scores”? Before you answer “quality is subjective” consider the cart that, in order for any brand to achieve recognition as the “quality” or “high-end” option, it must be true that certain aspects of quality are kind of objective, for, what is “objective” if not the mass-agreement among many people, especially in business where all you need to do is get enough people to agree on something to make a profit? You don’t need to achieve true objectivity to be labelled “high-end” in your industry. As more of the world comes online for the first time, and the rest of the world increases their incorporation with social/digital living, it’s clear that reviews of everything will drive the majority of all purchases on Earth. In other words, to combine what’s been said separately until now:

In the future, quality will be the only factor associated with every good, service, and brand which matters and is synthesized by users. It could sound like this, “I bought X coffee brand because it’s Q-score was 95 and I wanted something good.”

Why is this different from today’s “5-star” rating system? Because, while implicitly we give stars based on our perception of quality, to the  buyer who considers our rating in their purchasing decision, it doesn’t absolutely convey the quality (objectively) of the product compared to alternatives. Our star rating incorporates all of our personal, subjective feelings about the non-product related elements we associate with what we bought and when we bought/used it. Our emotions that day come into play. The person we paid matters, again even if subconsciously. These non-product-related elements don’t have anything to do with quality (either for the next buyer or the company making the good) but they are part of the rating we give. It could be way more useful if a Q-score we could see as clearly as price and speed existed which was given by a qualified rater. It could be a company that rates products within or across industries. Maybe it’s a state-run group under department of commerce, FDA, agriculture, etc. Maybe the big consulting firms develop the right talent to audit clients. Maybe every mid to large company invests in this capability first to assign a Q-score to internal documents, then departments, then suppliers, and finally to its employees for compensation and benefits. Actually, that’s the manager’s job (are they doing it…). At least, we could benefit from the third factor being displayed as clearly as price and convenience are today. I think the most logical place to start is replacing star ratings with Q-scores. Keep the reviews for people who like reading them. Hey, even keep the star rating, too, but give an extra, specific rating of quality.

QOTW–“This is amazing!”-Stately re: DISC

?FNW–Does boss say ok to coach soccer? Yes


12/5/2017 review–I’m not sure what exactly this would look like if it played out,  but I think the main idea was that a product’s rating includes factors which are irrelevant to the person using the rating. In other words, if I’m shopping for a toy and it has 3 stars, I’d like to know if it’s a quality toy or not, which is objective enough to be helpful. Otherwise, I don’t know if the 3 star average is skewed by all sorts of factors that are not related to the toy’s quality. That 3-star rating includes issues with customer service, delayed shipping, kids not liking it, etc. I want to know if it’s made well, but I’d like to not have to read a bunch of verbatim reviews to learn that.