Why you should never trust testimonials


In our travels we come across many people that ask us if we have had anyone tell us that the app really helped or anything at all that we might be able to use on the website to promote the apps. We have indeed had many, many positive comments. We have had people approach us to tell us what a difference Phobia Free or Stress Free makes. They usually come with a brilliant personal story of how specifically the app helped someone's daughter venture into the garden or someone's son to go into the shed to get his bike.

Let us tell you, the temptation is big at times to simply tell those stories as they showcase how our apps make a real difference in people's lives. We don't use them though. There are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Our training as doctors. In our practice we would never use the compliments we receive from patients to promote ourselves. Our patients' are surveyed by others for our yearly appraisal, but even when that happens it feels like inconveniencing them for our personal gain. It feels wrong.
  2. Confidentiality. if we say 'So-and-So' recovered from whatever complaint thanks to whatever it is that we did, basically we are breaching 'So-and-So's' confidentiality as we just blurted out that So-and-So use to suffer from a specific complaint.
  3. They are the worst way to tell if something works or not. Testimonials are very powerful in pushing people to do one thing or another, that's why they are so widespread and that is why so many of our advisers push us to use them. The problem with them is that the fact that one person thinks something helped them does not mean it really helped them (they may have gotten better by themselves anyway) and it does not mean it was that particular thing that made them better (there might be something else that helped them but that they weren't aware of). Also, we are free to put up only the nice ones for you to read, and you wouldn't know anything about any bad ones we may have had.

Hard data coming out of properly designed clinical trials will tell you exactly what works and what doesn't. The strange thing is that most people are not persuaded by these and prefer the personal anecdote to guide them. That's a bit of a bug in our human brains and that's what some people exploit with testimonials. For instance hard data shows that homeopathy does nothing at all whatsoever, but there are innumerable testimonials about how wonderful homeopathy is.

We agree with our advisers that we are missing a trick, They say that as we base what we do in evidence, it is not like we would be using testimonials to gloss over weak science. The problem is that if we used them we would be betraying our principles for the 3 reasons above, and that we cannot do.

We will only put up information coming from clinical trials we conduct, or even better, somebody else conducts independently of us.

Let us state it here for the record: we have not and will never use testimonials in any of our communications.