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Elance - Feedback System
(Page 3 of 5)
Issues and Problems with the Feedback System
Despite the considerable time and
effort that Elance clearly devotes to tweaking and enhancing their feedback
mechanism, complaints about it are numerous and persistent. Many of these
come from providers, but clients also frequently have some problems with
the way the system works.
Some of the more common objections:
- Inflexible Feedback Time Limits: When a
project goes well, the 60-day limit for leaving feedback is not a problem.
But if a project conflict arises, it is possible that it will not be
resolved until after the feedback time limit expires. This can only be
alleviated if the final milestone date is pushed out, but either party
can prevent that from happening by refusing to agree to changes in project
terms. This situation allows an unscrupulous client or contractor to
drag his or her heels to avoid a negative review. Elance is notoriously
inflexible about this policy, refusing to extend the deadline even when
a project enters the dispute process.
- Feedback Allowed Only if Payment is Made:
It is not possible to leave feedback if no payment is made. If a contractor
doesn’t do anything on a project and the client never pays them,
the client cannot leave negative feedback. The same applies if escrow
is funded for a project but then later refunded. This means the feedback
system, by design, does not allow clients to warn others about contractors
who behave in an unprofessional manner but don’t get paid, such
as just abandoning a project they’ve been awarded.
- Inconsistency of Ratings and Lack of Clear
Feedback Instructions: Clients are basically left to their own devices
on how to leave feedback, and especially, how to decide what numeric
ratings to give to contractors. The result is wildly inconsistent ratings.
Many clients will automatically give “all fives” if they
are happy with the project, while others will give lower scores simply
because of a different interpretation of the “Not Satisfied
Very Satisfied” scale.
Some contractors who are accustomed to getting a 5.0 on every project
find their overall rating can be “ruined” by one client who
gives them a 4.0 despite being very happy with the project (been there,
done that.) Some clients are also just unreasonable: I once saw
a contractor receive a 3 out of 5 rating on the "schedule" portion of
a review because the work was slightly late due to the contractor unexpectedly
needing to attend a funeral.
- Feedback Hostaging: The reliance on numeric
feedback, and the asymmetric nature of the feedback system, creates a
tremendous imbalance of power between clients and contractors. It is
not uncommon for clients to abuse this power under the threat of a bad
review. To be fair, Elance does specify that feedback “hostage-taking”
is against their terms of service, but the system itself encourages this,
and my guess is that most incidents are never reported. It’s also
worth mentioning that some contractors themselves abuse it by trying
to “buy off” an unhappy client to avoid a bad review.
- Deceptiveness of Overall Rating Scores:
The Elance system encourages clients to become dependent on the use of
the numeric rating system, and the overall rating of a provider can be
very deceptive. People are conditioned to think that a score like 4.0
out of 5 is good, but the truth is that on Elance, a rating like that
for an established provider is usually not. On the flip side, a new contractor
can easily have a bad experience on his/her first project and end up
saddled with a lousy overall rating that really doesn’t reflect
his or her true quality.
- Reviews Allowed After Arbitration: My understanding
is that as long as payment has been made, the buyer can leave feedback
for the client, even if a project goes to arbitration and the client
loses. The potential for abuse here is obvious.
You’ll notice that most of the
problems are related to the numeric ratings. Clients really need to pay
attention to more than just the overall number, including looking at
the underlying scores. I’ve seen clients get burned because they
hired a contractor who appeared to have a high overall rating, but when
I looked at his profile, I found an easily-noticeable pattern of poor
communication and refusing to take deadlines seriously. Unfortunately,
the Elance system encourages dependency on numeric ratings, and allows
providers with a poor track record of professionalism and quality to
remain on the site.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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