Why search no longer works when it comes to finding a good service provider

A few months ago, my water heater broke down.

The first I did was to lie to my wannabe-engineer self, “I would fix it myself, but I just don’t have the time or the parts.”

The next thing I did was to Google “Plumber in Singapore”. A dumb move, really, since all I got was a ton of ads and over 100 pages of results.

But I called one of the listings anyway, and that evening, a guy shows up to do an inspection. After 15 minutes, he climbs down from the attic and says that the thermostat is fried, and replacing it will cost SHot tapGD650.

Now, I know that the same model of water heater sells for SGD250 in the store, so I’m basically getting screwed.

After refusing for 20 minutes to pay that amount, the guy packs up and leaves, but not before imposing a SGD200 house call for half an hour of work, saying that it was due to “urgent request”. Not wanting to argue any longer, I pay up (yes, I was a moron and you can let me know in the comments).

When it comes to “Plumber in Singapore”, Google helps you find information, not make decisions

What’s the lesson here? If you wanted to find information on a service provider, such as their phone number, Google is great. That’s exactly how I found that plumber.

But when it comes to more subjective parameters like, ‘does this service provider deliver quality work, value for money, and is honest?’. Well, that’s where search falls short. As TechCrunch explains, “Search is outdated. Google steers you to right section of the library, but doesn’t answer your question or compile that answer with others to help you make a decision.”

“Search is outdated. Google steers you to right section of the library, but doesn’t answer your question or compile that answer with others to help you make a decision.” – TechCrunch

Review sites get you closer to a decision, but just a little

To facilitate decision-making, many sites include ratings and reviews. And there certainly are some sites that let you leave reviews about your plumber in Singapore. But this approach is also falling short. Time Magazine gives nine reasons why you shouldn’t trust online reviews, saying that “…businesses have been known to plant reviews by employees, pay strangers who have never been customers to write five-star reviews, and even sabotage their competitors by the posting of harsh, negative reviews.”

It’s gotten to a point where only 46% of people will trust what a review they read online, according to a study by Forrester Research.

The missing link? Social connections.

Why won’t you instinctively trust a review that you read online? Consumerist says that it depends on many factors, including:

    • The review details are not specific enough. E.g. “This guy sucks” as opposed to a more thoughtful review with details
    • ALL CAPS. Nuff said.
    • Fakey usernames like WendyLee111
    • Reviews of the same length, all posted at around the same time

There is, however, one item they left out. All the reviews tend to come from strangers.

Would you trust a recommendation more if it came from a person you know?

If I had asked a friend or a neighbour, i would probably have received much better recommendations for plumbers. After all, your friends have a sense of your expectations. They probably know your tastes. And they may live in your area.

But there are still limitations with this approach:

    • You have to wait for your friend to respond
    • You can’t cast the net wider, and ask your friend’s friends for a recommendation
    • Your friend may have recommended someone before, but you don’t remember, and have to ask again
    • You might already have a number for a plumber in your phone, but you have no idea who gave it to you, or when it was given
    • There is no place to store all the great recommendations that you have gathered over time, unless you are really diligent in data entry
    • You can’t lookup the plumber’s business details before calling them, since all you might have is a mobile number for “Ah Wong the plumber”

The problems above were part of the reason why we decided to build Recommend.my.

“If I had asked a friend or a neighbour, i would probably have received much better recommendations for plumbers.”

Search with recommendations: Your friends know best

With Recommend.my, what we wanted to do was to create a single place where we could find all the top service providers recommended or reviewed by our Facebook and Google+ friends (including the friends of our friends).

Having a friend “vouch” for a plumber is so much more trustworthy compared to Google results, or recommendations from strangers in forums. Sure, Googling gives you a good place to start, but the amount of time you need to gather more data and make a decision may be time you can’t afford to spare.

“Recommend.my creates a single place to find all the top service providers recommended or reviewed by your Facebook and Google+ friends”

While not every business listing in Recommend.my will contain a review from someone you know, it’s a great starting point to narrow down your options.

As for my water heater incident, it was promptly fixed by a plumber that was recommended by a friend (and one that I’m going to list in Recommend.my for sure!)

Would you like a list of recommended service providers?
Visit Recommend.my and see reviews for plumbers, electricians, renovators, interior designers and more. If you sign up with your Facebook account, you also get to see which ones are recommended by your connected friends! Get your free account now.
photo credit: @Doug88888 via photopin cc

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