Blindly Following

We all know the phenomenon of viral marketing: referrals from trusted sources are worth a lot more than a billboard kicking on the side of the highway. But to what extent do we trust those referrals?

Let's say you need to find a doctor/dentist. Or a new TV and living room furniture. Or a vacation package. Or a tanning salon. Our first choices are usually to ask our friends/family about whatever we're looking for. But would you tend to blindly take advice or referrals from them?

uh ... mind if i check your credentials?In the case of the medical professionals, do you just assume that your friends have done their due diligence on the doctors? If you get suggestions for a home appliance or some electronic toy or whatever, do you take it at face value and figure that if it's right for them, that it's right for you? Or do you spend hours and hours pouring over the specs to make sure you're getting what you want? And where do you look to do this research?

I'm sure most of you will say, "It depends." I mean, of course it does. But what does it depend on? Who do you tend to trust, and for which situations? Give me some examples here (for or against); give me some brain fodder.

(There's a greater reason to my line of questioning. Trust me on this.)


Anonymous said...

i'll ask my uncles - a radiologist, a ob-gyn (you know ...), a surgeon. or i'll ask my cousins - a emergency/trauma-ward doctor, a renologist, a pediatrician, a psychologist resident. hey - no dentist! slacker relatives. ~ jason

ps. the horror stories about incompetence doctors privately tell about other doctors.

Anonymous said...

I would look at how similar the "source's" personality is to my own. For example, I know that you spend a lot of time researching things, so I would tend to trust your opinion. Of course, I'd still end up spending lots of time researching anyway! -CY

Anonymous said...

hmmm... this is a very interesting question. You can't just blindly take referrals. Consider the source and find out what they like about the person/thing they're referring and see if those values match your own. Also, I would try to remember some "stories" or "proof". For example, if it's a referral for, say, a hair dresser - what did their last hair cut look like? Also, the cost/price is a huge factor. A movie referral - even though you may waste 2 hours of your life - really doesn't "cost" much so - who cares. But, a referral for a vacation package or dentist is bigger. Ask around s'more or see if there's info on the web. If you can, check out the place/item before hand and experience it first-hand. Personally, I usually ask a few people for their opinions before making a decision. Hope that helps! BTW, what's this alterior motive you've got going?

Thoughts said...

I'd ask a few people...but it would really depend on the person's personality and how they liked their experience. I'm all about the experience. If it's like a store or something, then I'll go check it out first. If I'm looking for cheap prices on something, I will look for stuff online. But if it's a doctor, hair stylist, etc...I would see how they liked it and what about them they liked.

Anonymous said...

I ask everyone. But my questions are geared to find out the questions to MY buying roadblocks. I usually have a few criteria that my purchases have to meet. The rest i don't care about really. I'm easy. I usually ask my friends that do all the tedious research. I just don't have the patience for all that comparing. - KT

Kevin Cheng said...

back in the company i was in, we had maillists setup for this and it all aggregated to a database. it was quite good because then you could see who recommended the same things etc. everything from physiotherapist to car repair shop for bmws.

i also have specific friends i trust because i know they keep up on the aspect i'm interested in. these are my mavens.

Ben said...

So let's continue this train.

You have something for which you would like a/some referral(s). You get those suggestions, but feel like you still need to do more research / due diligence on your own.

What do you still need to know, in addition to those referrals (and online opinions), before you can have more confidence in buying something or going to that service provider?

Momcy said...

"Seeing is believing!" A try out should follow and make sure it can be refunded. It depends, for doctors, etc. if u aren't satify, just don't go back! AND, make sure u tell everybody how bad they are. That's why people needs referals.

Kevin Cheng said...

depends on the purchase and the referrers. if the refferer is someone i trust, who obviously does more due diligence and research than i usually do, i just buy it. that's what happened when i bought my xbr36 wega tv. i said "i need a tv that i will use for video games and movies, i want quality over quantity and here's how much i'm willing to spend" and my friend just gives an answer. these types of friends are invaluable =)

if it's from online reviews, i just need to make sure there are a lot of coinciding reviews. i might want to see one if it's convenient to do so but i don't always.

S said...

My friends tend to be the more inquisitive type who do their homework on their own health issues, so I can't go too wrong to blindly trust their word if they tell me about a good doctor. My last two GPs have been great (the first one moved to the US with her husband; the second went on Mat Leave and decided not to return to the clinic).

I had a Neurologist who coincidentally knew my Mom, a Chiropractor who is family, so they took extra good care of me; an Ob/Gyn who was relatively new in the practice (I picked her precisely because of that), so she really put in the effort to establish a good reputation; and I went to a team of specialists who are international authorities in their field of specialization.

Generally, for doctors, I pick younger ones. They're more likely to understand me and what I want to know. They're more likely to have "the right attitude" with regards to health issues and focus on prevention, healthy lifestyle and a good balance of drug/non-drug approaches to healing. They're more likely to be internet savvy and will tell me neat little things or give me URLs to sites that they think are reputable for my burning curiosity at midnight. They're more likely to want to establish a reputation, so they'll spend the time with me, answer my questions, spell words for me so that I can Google, give me copies of my test results, etc.

I found my awesome dentist by randomly phoning a dental insurance group that I found in the phone book. I said I was looking for a new dentist and I wanted someone would always preserve the original teeth, do minimum modifications if at all possible because my then-current dentist was pressuring me to get some work done (crowns!) that I thought was completely unneccessary.

Our birds go to Dr. Anne MacDonald who is THE Avian Vet in the Lower Mainland. All the bird sanctuaries, breeders, pet stores and anyone who knows (and doesn't know) anything about birds will tell you to go to Anne MacDonald at Night Owl.

Products: Sometimes, I Google for the products if I have a general idea of what I want. Sometimes I post a question in my journal (like so: or an appropriate LJ community. There's quite a range of people reading my journal, so it's a good start.

And, I sometimes try neat new products that I see or hear about.

Ben said...

These are great responses!

Let's focus more on material goods for a second. I don't want to use clothing as an example, because that is still something that is very personal (in terms of fit and texture) to each individual. But let's instead take the whole technology gadget arena: notebook PCs, wireless mice, TVs, DVD players, iPods, all that geekstuff. These are the things that everyone uses slightly differently, but aren't (usually) so personal that everybody would definitely have to play with it before buying. And yet, they are pricey enough that you wouldn't take the purchasing process lightly.

So let's say (with tech toys), you're looking for something (how about an iPod), and you get your referrals. After some dialogue with what you want, two of them recommend a particular model for you (iPod 4G 40GB version). Then you look at the manufacturer's site (Apple) and do your research on other places (review sites). Great.

Without necessarily walking into the Apple store, are you ready to buy the product online? If not, what is missing in your purchasing processing? What is it that you still need to know/feel/see for yourself, that your friends can't tell you, and that online reviews and specs don't show you? What do you need, before you can just buy it on faith (from your research and referrals)?

S said...

> What do you still need to know, in addition to those
> referrals (and online opinions), before you can have
> more confidence in buying something or going to that
> service provider?

What hidden inconveniences, workarounds, caveats, imperfections should I know about so that I can see what I'll need to do once I actually buy it?

Can the product cause me to have to spend more money if something goes wrong with whatever it is that I'm getting?

Will I really be using the product the way the manufacturer intended? I can't think of an example off the top of my head, but sometimes, you don't quite use the thing the way everyone else does and that could make a difference in which/what type you buy...

Anonymous said...

Depends on why you want the item. I tend not to want a tech gadget simple because it's there. I usually NEED it for something or to solve a certain problem. If it does that... here's my card. I'm simple. (look at the way I bought my couches.. and everyone loves them, including me!)