The Purchase Process and Buyer's Remorse
It is worthwhile trying to understand what caused the Client to have so little
confidence in the upgraded software. The Client Project Manager had said all along
that he was happy with the current version of the software. There should surely not
have been any reason for him to doubt that the upgrade would suit his business needs?
Consumer decision-making is depicted in distinctly different ways.
The term "model of consumers" refers to a general view or perspective as to how (and
why) individuals behave as they do. Specifically, there are models of consumers in
terms of four views that will be examined.
The Economic View
In this view, the consumer makes rational decisions by being:
- Aware of the alternatives
- Capable of correctly ranking each alternative
- Able to identify the best alternative
It is clear from what transpired in this project that an economic view was not
The Passive View
This view is quite the opposite of the economic view and it depicts the consumer
as basically submissive to the self-serving interests and promotional efforts of the
marketers. In this project the SP approached the Client and suggested an upgrade.
The Client did not look at alternatives. The Client Project Manager, who claimed to
be completely ignorant of any alternative systems, confirmed this.
The Cognitive View
This view portrays the consumer as a thinking problem-solver, actively searching
for products or services. The consumer is generally unwilling to engage in extensive
decision-making activities and will settle, instead, for a "satisfactory" decision,
one that is "good enough". The cognitive
view falls between the economic and passive views. Here the consumer does not (or
cannot) have total knowledge about available product alternatives and therefore cannot
make perfect decisions. Instead he/she actively seeks information and attempts to
make satisfactory decisions based on that information.
The Emotional View
When a consumer makes an emotional purchase decision, less emphasis is placed on
the search for pre-purchase information. Instead, more emphasis is placed on current
mood and feelings. The decision to proceed with the upgrade was taken after the Client's
business objectives had been identified. Tough targets had been set and it was decided
that there was an urgent need to upgrade the computer system in order to help the
organization reach its goals.
The Client did decide that the current system was the only choice. Interestingly
enough, when doubt set in and the project went "on hold", the Client MD was asked
why he was still considering the SP system. He replied, "our relationship with the
SP is the most important thing and I will do my best to make sure it stays". Why would
the above views have a bearing on a project or its delivery? Figure
5 shows the four views, represented in red or green depending on its potential
affect on the project.
Figure 5: Model of consumer views
A consumer with a red view is a bigger risk and this must be taken into
consideration by the sales or after-sales team. This consumer will need support and
reassurance. The reason is that these categories of consumers have little or knowledge
of what is available elsewhere and this can lead to doubt setting in as they learn
more about competitor products.
As consumers use or are exposed to a product, they evaluate its performance in
the light of their expectations. The longer this takes, the greater the chance the
Client will have to second-guess the original decision. There are three possibilities
here. Performance can match, exceed or be below expectations.
An important component of post purchase evaluation is the reduction of uncertainty
or doubt that the consumer might have had about the selection. As part of their post
purchase analyses, consumers try to reassure themselves that their choice was a wise
one; that is, they attempt to reduce post purchase cognitive dissonance.
What can be done to mitigate the risk? An experiment was conducted that focused
on the effects of regret following a consumer's decision to go ahead with a purchase.
In 1970, Donnelly and Ivancevich conducted an experiment to study buyers from two
car dealerships. Each of these customers had made a commitment to buy a car and the
study sought to determine how many of these buyers would back out of the deal before
the car was delivered.
Donnelly and Ivancevich hypothesized that buyers experienced post decisional dissonance
between the time they decide to buy a car and the time the car was delivered to them.
As a way to reduce this dissonance, some buyers changed their decision to buy the
car. In other words, post decisional dissonance had resulted in lowering the attractiveness
of buying a car for some buyers and the changing of their original decision was a
The experimenters then sought to reduce dissonance for several of the buyers by
having a salesman call the buyer a few times after the initial sale. The salesman
would speak favorably about the car sold, and reassured the customer that he/she had
made the right decision. The experiment was set up so that one group of buyers received
the courtesy calls from the salesman while a control group did not receive this dissonance
reducing phone calls.
The results of the study tended to confirm the hypothesis of the study authors.
Those buyers who did not receive the follow-up calls were more likely to rescind their
decisions than those who were in the positive follow-up group. In effect, only 2.5%
of those buyers who received the courtesy phone call rescinded their decision to purchase
the car while 6.4% of those who did not get the phone call backed-out of their initial
purchase decision. This study illustrates the importance of positive reinforcement
as a means of dissonance reduction as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Experiment – changing mind after purchase
For the project in this case study, the Client had a "risk rating" of red, which
meant that it needed to be looked after. The sales team should have kept in touch
and provided re-assurance all along the way. This did not happen at all and the project
team was the only contact that the Client had with the SP – until it was too late.
4. Schiffman, L, & L. Kanuk, Consumer Behavior,
6th ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 1997, pp560-561, 582
5. March, J. & H. Simon, Organizations, Wiley, New York, 1958,
6. Olskavsky, R., Towards a More Comprehensive Theory of Choices,
in E. Hirschman and M. Holbrook, (eds) Advances in Consumer Research 12 (Provo, UT:
Association for Consumer Research), 1985, pp465- 70
7. Donnelly, J, and J. Ivancevich, 1970. Post-purchase reinforcement
and back-out behavior, Journal of Marketing Research, 7, pp399-400