Perhaps one of the most terrifying Web sites for educators in the United States and Canada is www.ratemyteachers.com--which proudly announced last month that it has added its one-millionth teacher.

This site is almost criminally easy to use and navigate. The concept is simple. Students can rate their teachers at all grade levels in elementary, middle, and high school. All rated instructors can be displayed by alphabetically last name and the table displays subject, last time rated, number of those providing ratings, and a scale with 5 as the top value. Happy, neutral, and frowning faces are placed to the left of each teacher's name.

There's an easy-to-use "Find Your School" feature to get to vote in the first place. It also has a feature that lets you go back to the previous school you were looking at if you exit and then return to the site.

The ratings don't mean much if there are less than a handful of votes. But as the votes mount, the list at my daughter's middle school closely matched our family's list of good guys and villains. There's also a "Wall of Shame" for the 693 schools that block access to the page from school computers. The "Hall of Fame" ranks those top schools that have at least 1,000 ratings. The high school my daughter enters in the fall came in at No. 13. The middle school didn't make the Top 100.

If the point was just Web design, you could stop here and go visit it. But that's just one point.

How would your business do if you had www.ratemybusiness.com? And in a way, why shouldn't businesses do this? If I were an administrator, I'd be looking at my school to see how the votes stack up against what I think of the teachers.

This is one of those examples of the ability of the Internet to change things, to shift power. With Ratemyteachers, it gives power to a group that usually feels powerless. But many business customers probably feel the same way as students, unable to do anything about the quality of the service or products they get.

Surely, letting customers feel that they have a degree of control would be a powerful way to draw them to a business. It's an extension of the phrase often used by former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who often asked, "How'm I doing?"

Surely, any kind of added market intelligence lets a business have a better grasp of how it is doing, and the Web looks like a good way to explore that subject.

If enough customers voted, would you be able to put a smiley face next to your score? Or a frown?

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