To Whom it May Concern at Angie’s List:*
Stop calling me. Stop calling me. Stop calling me.
Listen, I appreciate how you’ve let me access your site for the past year, even though I only paid for six months. That’s very classy and I will definitely renew my subscription when it comes due. And I think it’s great how you try and keep companies from rigging your system, even though we all know that any media-savvy organization will hire people to boost their social network ratings. Heck, Brown and I just got home from dinner in a pizza joint where we sat at the bar and watched a guy with an I-do-this-for-a-living attitude post long and glowing reviews for that very restaurant on everything from Facebook to Yelp.
But you have to stop calling me.
I know how your business model works. You advertise yourself as a source of unbiased independent consumer reviews. I am aware you require a continuous supply of fresh reviews, and not the type of reviews posted by professional-seeming gentlemen who get a free pizza along with their cashier’s check. Reviews from people like me, who go to your site and read up on local companies, and then use that information to select a company to resolve various household concerns.
The thing is, though, you assume that people like me don’t do research before we select a company.
Let me give you an example. A few months back, we thought we had a problem with our roof. So I hopped onto Angie’s List and pulled the names of several highly-rated roofing companies, then went and searched other sites for different reviews on those same companies.
(I make my living doing research for other people so I’m sure as heck going to cross-check my sources when it’s for my husband and myself, especially if some of these sources can be bought for pizza.)
A couple of weeks later, I was flooded with calls from Angie’s List asking about the quality of service provided by Ajax Roofing Company. Then, we were asked whether Gary’s Discount Shingles had met our needs. Was the staff at Get Those Cats Off Our Roofing prompt and courteous? Did Take a Leak Roofing finish the job in a timely manner? Would you allow Squirrels in Your Attic to service your home again?
Dear Angie, how many roofs do you think we need?
We never used any of those companies, Angie. All I did was click on their listing to do a little fact-finding. I was rather short with your staff, I’m afraid, and I have since taken my name off of your “please call” list so I am hoping I won’t be contacted again, but my point stands: you cannot simultaneously advertise your site as a source for consumer research while assuming your customers will use the first company that catches their eye.
I hope this has not come off as a criticism of your service. Rather, this is a criticism of the consumer tracking models you use in your service. I think you need to adjust these models and assume that your subscribers are there to do research, not pay a monthly** fee to stumble mindlessly towards a witty name or a high rating.
Or to put it another way, if I’m going to hand over large sums of money to a bunch of strange dudes and tell them to rip apart our home, I’m going to be freaking positive they know how to put it back together again. Any model that you apply to track customer behaviors should assume that this is the norm.
We’re informed consumers, Angie. We look at lots of things before we commit. Please don’t nag us to death when we do.
* This rant also applies to ServiceMagic and a couple of other online sites, but I feel justified in criticizing Angie’s List as I actually have a subscription with them. They all use the same lousy tracking models supplemented by follow-up phone calls, and this has a chilling effect on my willingness to use them.
** Annual? Again, thank you, very nice of you.