Thousands of consumers shop every day for new phone bundles, only to find that they are bogged down in overly-technical details, confusing packages, and sales speak. According to a recent consumer behavior study by Deakin University and the Austrialian Communications Consumer Action Network, the majority of consumers were confused by the entire process of selecting and purchasing a new telecommunications package.
For the study, researchers took 22 people and recorded over 50 hours of video to discover what was really going on. They found that consumers have a very difficult time deciding between packages. Ultimately, the study confirmed the conception that choosing a new phone deal entails stress, frustration, and confusion. It was so stressful that the researchers struggled to find positive experiences from the participants, instead finding consistently negative, frustrated results.
Why the Confusion?
Many participants expressed confusion over exactly how much data was contained in a megabyte. There were many complaints over the amount and clarity of the fine print, and participants experienced severe wariness of marketing ploys such as time-limited offers and specialty discounted bundles. These bundles combine home phones, smartphones, and internet service and were seen as unwelcome pressure at an already stressful time.
One of the important notes from the research is the effect of the introduction of 15-point fonts for terms and conditions, an idea from the ACMA. Based on feedback from consumers about the telecommunications industry, the fine print of the terms and conditions are hard to understand and difficult to read. It turns out, however, that consumers are actually more afraid when the terms and conditions are in 15-point font. The much larger font increased the perception of risk, but at an increase in comprehension. The percentage of consumers who actually read the terms and conditions instead of skimming them and moving on increased as well.
A major recommendation from the study itself is that of “trial unit pricing”. With trial unit pricing, it would become easier to compare like products to like products and easily comprehend the differences between them. The problem, naturally, is that unit pricing does not increase clarity, and in many cases could increase obfuscation and confusion over the products. Giving more figures and numbers, no matter how applicable, could be a step in the wrong direction if not utilized carefully.
The real issue, according to the survey, is whether or not still more information could be a good thing. It boils down to being able to make good decisions- is it preferable to have a happily ignorant customer, or a frustrated one who knows exactly what they’re getting into? Perhaps with further research, the telecommunications community will find the answers it desperately needs.
Guest author Ross Fraser of HowToSaveMoneyUK shares his thoughts on phone deals and consumer stress.
Note: Photo courtesy of spaceodissey via FlickR Creative Commons.