The Horror of Once-In-A-Lifetime Purchases

December 19, 2006

Seth Godin hit on an interesting topic this week:

Many businesses cater to individuals and corporations that are making a once in a lifetime purchase. Whether it’s a DJ for your kids sweet 16 or a company that pours tar on the roof of your factory, it’s unlikely you’re an expert when you go to buy the product or service.

Godin’s post is about what these types of businesses can do to make customers feel more confident in them, as it is often difficult for the customers to gauge beforehand whether the company is good, unless of course they’ve gotten a referral from a trusted friend/relative.

An example that quickly comes to mind for me is moving companies.

The first time I made a major move from one metropolitan area to the next, I had no good way to judge beforehand what company to use, as most people I knew who’d used movers hated theirs and had no recommendation. I ended up having a horrible experience, as these movers carried half my family’s possessions around in a humongous truck for a week without any guarantee of when or if we’d see our things again, just repeated lying reassurances that our stuff was showing up “tomorrow”. When our things showed up, numerous pieces of furniture were handled roughly and had chips or pieces broken off. Our complaints to the moving company went unheeded and there was just enough damage to be infuriating but not enough to bother suing.

It’s a bad feeling to need something and be totally at the mercy of someone else, especially when you had no trust in that someone else to begin with.

There is a huge opportunity for some moving company to completely dominate that market if it could gain a reputation as a trustworthy, decently-priced operation. But no one does.


Most of all, I think it’s essential to acknowledge internally that your job is to turn naive, fearful new prospects into confident spreaders of word of mouth.

Exactly. If I’m in uncharted waters and your company can hold my hand, reassure me that it will all be OK, and then deliver on that promise, you won’t be able to shut me up in my zeal to tell others how good you are. In a world full of letdowns, those who deliver on their promises are worth my time to evangelize.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


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