Decision by expert not committee – why our obsession with reviews must end! | Doron Meyassed, Co-Founder and CEO Plum Guide

Play a little game with me.

Think of the last purchase you made online, that was important to you. Maybe a holiday you booked, a hotel, a new TV, even booking a restaurant.

Have you got something in mind?

Now ask yourself – how much did you enjoy the decision-making experience on a 1-10 scale?

Even more importantly, how content were you with the outcome on a 1-10 scale?

Chances are, if you are like 90% of the UK population, you hated the process. It was annoying at best, and at worst stressful, anxiety inducing, and may have even led to a few arguments.

Not only that but there is a 90% chance you felt somewhat disappointed with the outcome. A sense you should have done better.

In travel, 60% of customers feel disappointed with their choice of holiday accommodation, and 90% feel they should have done better. And that is after spending on average 20 hours trying to make the right decision.

What is that about?

Here we are in this era of abundance (certainly in the west), with perfect information on every product or service. Thousands of reviews. And yet we feel disappointed.

There are over 10,000 TVs on Amazon to choose from. 52,000 holiday homes in Paris on Airbnb. 10,000 restaurants in Barcelona, and you can’t find the right one for you?

All those reviews, data points, filtering tools and hours of hard work, and you’re still not there.

There are many factors at play here, but there are two that really stick out:

1. The explosion in expectations: When there is “infinite” choice, we are no longer happy with finding “the good enough solution”. We go from satisfiers to maximisers. Our goal shifts from fulfilling a functional need (finding a hotel in Barcelona) to fulfilling a dream (finding the best hotel in Barcelona for a romantic getaway, that will connect you and your partner in unimaginable ways).

2. A broken decision-making system – reviews: secondly and more importantly the way e-commerce has solved this explosion in choice, is by outsourcing the decision making to you. By saying: “here is every single holiday home in the world, now get to work. And to help you, here are several million reviews from other customers”.

It is the “outsourcing of the problem” coupled with terrible decision-making tools that we think is broken. It simply doesn’t work. If it did, people wouldn’t spend 20 hours choosing a holiday home and then feel 90% of the time they could have done better.

There is also the simple fact that reviews suck. Reviews are amazingly effective at getting rid of bad actors. Of spotting scammers and chancers. But they are terrible at surfacing to the top amazing experiences.

I challenge you to try the number one restaurant on Tripadvisor in your area. I suspect you will find something that is good value (aka a huge plate of food), but mediocre at best.

Not only that, but using reviews involve a huge amount of work. How many times have you found yourself in this vortex of reviews . Reading the 12th review on that hotel you are considering booking, trying to figure out if Jane from the Midwest not liking the pillows is a problem.

In this era of almost infinite choice, we need a new system to help customers choose the best for them. We believe over the next few decades, we will see a return to the reliance on the expert, the critic if you will. The person who dedicates their life to studying what makes a great TV, Hotel, Camera. And we will see a desire to rely on this expert view and outsource some of the hard work back to them.

At Plum, that is what we do. We are taking a systematic and expert led approach to vetting every single home on the planet. And accepting the top 3% at 3 price points.

We have a team of hospitality experts who are devising the methodology for deciding which homes are good enough. And expert critics who are going to these homes and meticulously testing them – the pillows, the mattresses, the design, the water pressure, the WiFi speed, and how conducive to good conversation the living room is.

The result – happy guests.

And guess what, there are no reviews. A home is either Plum or not. We do have a section that tells you what is not good about the home. And we do ask guests for feedback, but we distil it for you and sum up the key points in the section of ever home called “the Lows”.

We believe we will see a shift away from an endless scroll of reviews, towards placing our trust in a trusted experts who have done the hard work for us.

This is only the beginning.

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