Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into how consumers cope with confusion caused by overload in information and/or choice. The paper investigates whether consumers who face different degrees of confusion use different coping strategies depending upon their decision-making styles. Design/methodology/approach – The Dutch mobile phone market is a typical example of a turbulent market, overloaded with information and/or choice, which creates consumer confusion. A survey was conducted among 203 mobile phone users, using valid and reliable multi-item scales to measure consumer confusion, decision-making styles and coping strategies. Cluster analysis and Mancova were used to provide insight into the results. Findings – The paper finds that consumers of mobile phones can be characterized by combinations of decision-making styles and find three clusters based on decision-making styles: “price conscious and cautious” consumers, “brand-loyal and quality-driven” consumers, and “functionalist” consumers. Results show significant main effects of the degree of confusion and the decision-making styles on the use of coping strategies as well as a significant interaction effect of these two. Higher levels of consumer confusion lead to an increased use of seven coping strategies: downsizing the consideration set; keeping status quo; reduced information search; search deferral; buying what others have bought; disengagement from decision; and decision delegation. “Price conscious and cautious” consumers engage less in downsizing the consideration set than the two other clusters, and are less inclined to keep the status quo as compared to “functionalist” consumers. Originality/value – Because of the intangible and heterogeneous nature of services, knowledge about coping with confusion due to an overload in information and choice is especially important for service providers in their efforts to build and sustain strong relationships with consumers. Practical implications in terms of different approaches on how to cope with confused consumers are provided.
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