Top Tips to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance

Posted on August 24, 2010

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Cognitive Dissonance, Buyer’s Regret, name it what you will but we’ve all experienced it at some point.   In fact, just this weekend I bought a takeaway curry and was robbed of the remainder of the weekend by a serious bout of food poisoning.  Okay, it might just as easily have been gastric flu, but I don’t believe in coincidences and there definitely was something not right about the look of the poppadoms.  That really should have been a warning sign to me actually.  I won’t name the curry house, but suffice to say, if you’re ever in Moreton in Marsh then be careful about your take-away choices.

When the man taking the phone order told me to ‘put some toilet paper in the freezer’ (I’d ordered a particularly hot curry for one of the party), I thought it was quite a funny quip, I never for a minute thought that I’d be giving serious consideration to his advice a few hours hence.

Chicken Tikka

It doesn't look as apetising as it used to

So then, buyer’s regret, can be a very unpleasant sensation.  Sometimes you deserve the feeling, for example, if you bought a pair of ‘skinny jeans’ and you are a male in your thirties – (I haven’t I might add – although with my skinny legs, I’d have to buy girl’s skinny jeans to get the effect) and sometimes you don’t deserve it and therefore rightly harbour grudges against the people you bought the product from or the product itself.  I have no grudge against Chicken Tikka Jalfreizi per se, in fact I’m pretty fond of them, but I do hold some ill feeling towards the restaurant (hint, click the take-away link to get an idea about the purveyor) that sold me the product.

Being the sharing kind of soul that I am, here are some TOP TIPS to avoid cognitive dissonance for buyers and marketers.

TOP 5 TIPS TO AVOID POST PURCHASE DISSONANCE FOR BUYERS
  1. Do a bit of research before you buy – okay, that’s not always possible, but don’t just believe the marketing rubbish you read.  In my defense, the restaurant looked quite swish and the menu was good, but if I’d looked at a couple of online reviews I would have thought twice about ordering a takeaway.
  2. Don’t get too carried away with your expectations.  When people say “Sky+ changed my life”, they are exaggerating and shouldn’t be taken literally – as in if you were to cross the road today and walk down the other side of the road to normal you will have changed something in your life – not found the answer to a happy (gastric flu free) existence.
  3. Don’t ignore things you don’t want to hear.  Sometimes you get emotionally involved in a purchase (i.e. a house, wedding venue…) – if this ever happens you are in a dangerous spot, because it means you are likely to follow your heart and not your head.  Most Apple buyers get a little bit too involved in the ideal of the product they are buying, of course they’ll never admit that their experience isn’t quite what they had dreamed about ahead of the purchase, but if they are honest with themselves then most have a little bit of post purchase dissonance as nothing can live up to the ideal that they’ve imagined.
  4. Ask yourself if you really need the purchase.  Yes, on paper of course you need it, but in reality, will you use it as much as you think you will on paper?  Here’s an example.  I bought a wireless music player (called a Squeezebox).  On paper it was going to replace all my CD’s and the need for a radio.  The reality, I still listen to the CD player about 50% of the time, because it always works, whereas my network doesn’t.  So, I’ve a little regret there and it’s not really anyone’s fault, but I didn’t really need the product, not really – so I could have saved myself money and regret by not purchasing.
  5. Just when you’re ready to buy – don’t. Take a break, go and get a coffee.  Give yourself a chance to talk yourself out of it.
TOP 5 TIPS TO AVOID POST PURCHASE DISSONANCE FOR MARKETERS
  1. Under promise and over deliver. Bloody obvious really.  You don’t need to under promise, but just make sure you deliver on the promises you make.
  2. The sale doesn’t end with the sale. As in, the sale is the start, not the end of the relationship – so make sure that you behave in that way.  Follow up on the sale, ask for feedback (and act on it).  Do the nice little unexpected things that you didn’t promise – this could be a message a week into the sale with a voucher for money off a complementary product – or even just a little card to say, “thanks for your purchase, we really appreciate it.”, although I might then think, “If you appreciate it show me the money!” so an offer or freebie would be appreciated more.
  3. Anticipate what might go wrong. Think through the customer journey and try to remove any of the pain-points they might hit.  Take a look at Apple’s ‘out-of-box’ experience, it’s the best example out there of how to do it.  Some companies don’t put any thought into this bit and therefore leave the door wide open for their customers’ regrets to start bubbling up.  Take that approach to every stage of the user experience and you’ll continue not to disappoint your customer.
  4. If something does go wrong, act accordingly. Sometimes things go wrong – that’s life.  It always amazes me that the majority of companies never say sorry.  Say sorry and then fix the problem.  Sometimes the best relationships start this way.
  5. If you are in the business of food preparation wash your hands after going to the toilet.

I should have made my own curry, and here’s a nice recipe to do just that.

Just to be topical, here are a host of instances of people who have every right to sour grapes – I’m struggling to muster up too much sympathy for them though.

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Posted in: Marketing