Informing Purchase Decisions

The resources we use to help inform our purchase decisions today have changed dramatically over the past few years. This was brought home to me recently as I was considering switching my broadband provider as a result of the fairly poor service I was getting from my existing one. True, there is far more choice out there today but companies also try to make it difficult to do like-for-like comparisons. While decision-making is getting more complicated, there are far more places to go for information.

In the past purchasing was probably relatively simple. Fewer products and fewer places to go for information:


Much of the information was under the control of the company selling the product. If I could find one of my family, friends or neighbours who had used the company I would ask their opinion, but oftentimes if they had a bad experience I would be conscious that they may have just been unlucky.

Today, the picture is a little different with many more places to go:


So when I thought about a particular broadband provider, let’s call them OysterStone to protect the innocent, I was conscious of the advertising I’d seen, the messages I’d read or heard about them in the media. They appeared near the top of my search results on Google so I was reminded of them and decided to click onto their website. I visited their website to check out their packages and pricing, and compared this with what was on offer from the other providers. Now, I have to say I was quite impressed and their website made it very easy to sign up, so I thought about doing it then and there.

It was late in the evening and I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who was a customer of OysterStone’s that I could ring to see what they thought of them. So, I went on to to see what people had written there. The reviews were mixed so I decided to stall my purchase and I put out a call on three of the social networks that I am on, namely Twitter, Facebook and IGOPeople. Well, what people didn’t say about this company – “dreadful”, “no end of problems”, “get what you pay for”, “no customer services”, “customer care is non existent”, “would not recommend to my worst enemy”, “expect hassle” and “patchy” were among the surprising amount of  comments I got back. One woman was considering taking out a hit-man on her husband because he convinced her to switch. Now there were a few positive comments, but most unfortunately were not.

So, guess what? I didn’t switch. You can have great advertising, PR and even a great website but all of that counts for nothing if I can go onto the web and find a handful of people wh0 are only too happy to tell me how bad you are.

On two of the social networks I was on and on the conversations were all public, which meant that the sales/marketing/pr people in OysterStone would be able to see what was being said. Nowhere had they decided to step in. Would it have changed my purchase decision? Social media won’t fix your company’s problems, but if I saw that a company was listening and willing to take on customer feedback to improve their service I would be very much more williing to give  them a shot at my business. Wouldn’t you?

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6 thoughts on “Informing Purchase Decisions

  1. Hi Michael. Thanks for the comment. Interesting piece of data showing the relative weightings that should apply to the various influencers. Social media is the winner in that it is merely facilitating the number one influencer by making it easy and quick to gather recommendations from people we know already.

    Online banner ads down the bottom of the list of influencers would make me question investment here. Are we all really that jaded with them? I certainly am.


  2. hi brendan, good article. As I get to sit on both sides (consumer and marketer of broadband), I may have some insight into this. This is just my personal view but I suspect that most of the providers do listen and read forums and comments, although not in a a systematic and formal way – yet. But this will change. Hopefully.

    When it changes, the challenge the companies face is how to figure out how much power / authority it gives the people on the front line to fix problems. It won’t be good enough to have an employee say sorry but not empowered to fix the customer’s problem.


  3. Hiya Paul. I think you’re right; the providers are monitoring what it going on, but feeling largely helpless because of the fear that if they engage all the lunatics will come out of the asylum for the party.

    As you know, this doesn’t actually happen in reality. In most cases the lunatics are your customers that have been driven to lunacy by your poor customer service. They guys and gals at the front line don’t have to have all the answers, but you’re right, they should have the authority to go and act on behalf of the customer to see if they can fix things.

    My own view is that it is a very powerful message to your customers to be seen to proactively respond to negative criticism and try at least to sort it.


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