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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trust, your gut and the Internet

Seth Godin posted this reader comment and it struck a nerve (or two):

"I was amused by my own behaviour this morning.

I was looking for a welder of stainless steel to make up some security gates. I went to a website list of suitable contractors, clicked on all those in my area and ended up with 25 pages opened. I then called the first one and asked if they could make up something to my drawing. They couldn't (not their type of business) but I had a very pleasant and helpful discussion with the owner about stainless steel in general.

I then asked if he could suggest anyone else that might be able to do the work. He suggested a name and number. I called them, discussed the project and am waiting for their quote.
I then closed the other 24 web pages - unseen or contacted.

The rapport that I felt (from a perfect stranger) was sufficient to make me take his recommendation and pursue a quote from his referred "friend" in preference to the other 24 open pages. Funny that! The need for a personal link goes deep."
Similarly, I have been searching for a contractor to re-roof my home. I have heard enough contractor from hell stories to take some time on this decision. Despite the web offering up dozens of "referral" sites, most sponsored by the contractors themselves, I was left with a huge list of possible contractors and little in the way of any sense of comfort. I resorted to using spontaneously derived (and marginally objective) criteria to narrow the list.
Then I started calling. I ultimately asked for bids from those who engaged me with conversation that made me feel "comfortable". In other words, I used gut feel. I think we instinctively want to trust our gut, and speaking with a real person has always been our gut's preferred geiger counter.
I wonder if or how, the web can ever overcome this hurdle? Can designers learn to incorporate "gut cues" into web experiences?
Incidentally, I do not view consumer generated "review" sites as the answer. They are easily gamed, are skewed towards angry customers and there is really no way to gauge the reviewer's expertise (I have seen Taco Bell judged "best Mexican food restaurant" in newspaper and magazine reader polls).


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