When customers ask for advice or recommendations they are looking for one answer. Often times, I know of a couple of options and will try to narrow them down to get a better idea what my customer is really looking for.
I often struggle to make a single recommendation. Customers want one answer to their question. One single recommendation to act on.
Offering a buffet of choices can be very overwhelming to someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking for. Even if they do, there are a many options for everything. Offering up 5 good options is overkill and will lead to feeling overwhelmed and not choosing anything.
Just looking at anti-malware and anti-virus options is absolutely confounding. They all offer the same thing. They have different prices and different perks. But in the end, most people want a simple option. And if it’s free, that’s even better.
If I know of a good free option, I will recommend it and only offer paid options if they ask if there is anything better or anything else I would recommend. Most people who are asking for basic recommendations aren’t going to spend the money on a solution even if they should.
For the people who are looking for more sophisticated recommendations, I will choose an option or two and will do my best to tell them what I know about the products and which I would go with in their situation.
Recommending the unknown
My biggest rule in recommendations is I try not to recommend anything I’ve never used. If I don’t have any direct experience in something, I will draw from my knowledge to make an educated recommendation but clearly say I have not used it and don’t have any direct experience with it.
I don’t want to lead people astray. I don’t want to recommend a product that might now work well for them. Every time a customer asks, I try to find the very best product to fit their needs based on my experience.
General or Specific
There is a balance that needs to be struck between making a general recommendation and asking enough questions to tailor the best solution to the customer.
People often ask about “what computer should I buy?” and that is the hardest question I have to answer. There are so many needs people have and everyone has different needs and requirements of a computer. What the customer really wants to know can be determined in a few follow-up questions.
“Should I buy a Mac or a PC?”
I love this question because it means the person is open to the idea of buying a Mac or at least has heard enough about them they’re interested in buying one.
This is when I try to ask what they’re looking for in a computer. On one hand, I know a Mac will give them less trouble down the road. And on the other, I don’t want them to spend a lot of money on a machine they don’t really need.
There are some fields where the industry standard software is Windows-only such as scientific research and technical drawing. I would never recommend a Mac to people who I know will be better served by Windows.
Buying a computer is a huge cost and a big decision. I don’t want to say Buy A Mac, when all they need is a simple netbook for email and web browsing.
Making a good recommendation is all about what the customer is going to use it for. Finding the right tool for the job is the real question the customer is coming to you to find out.
“Should I buy a Dell or HP?”
This is a harder question. These people are squarely in the Windows world for one reason or another. They want to buy a PC. But who do they buy it from? I hate this question in a way because I often feel there is no right answer.
The Windows market is a commodity market. Buying on price is the only real decision to make. How much the customer wants to spend and what they’re looking to do with the computer.
Do they need a lot of RAM of a fast graphics card? Do they need a huge hard drive for storage or are they looking for small, light and portable because they travel all the time? The ideal computer for a graphic designer and a writer are very different.
When people are looking for a computer, they generally know whether they want a laptop or a desktop. From there, price is the only decision. How much do they want to spend and how much computer do they need? Then look for what manufacturer offers the best sales and support.
“What about tablets?”
iPads are popular and many people have one or know someone who has one. They want to know if they should buy one or not. Similarly, many times they may not want to spend the money on an iPad but they ask about Android or Windows tablets.
The first question is should they buy one. The biggest question to ask if what would they use it for and would they use it. Tablets are fun and sexy and look cool. But they do no good if they’re sitting around in a closet or a shelf. E-book readers like the Kindle or Nook also fall into this class.
For tablets, I always recommend iPads because I have a lot of experience with them and I feel they offer the best experience in terms of applications and manufacturer support. I’ve used a number of Android tablets and while they are much more affordable, they have their own issues.
There is also the ongoing issue of what version of Android the tablet is running since Android devices rarely, if ever, see operating system updates. The owner of a shiny new Android tablet may find there are very few applications that support the particular screen size and version of Android they’re running.
My biggest problem in recommending Android products is the fragmentation in the market. What this means is there are so many different versions of the operating system out, and they look and behave different it’s hard to get a consistent experience. I don’t want to tell a customer to buy an underpowered tablet that will be a constant source of irritation to use.
If I am going to recommend a product for someone to buy, I want to try to steer them in the right direction and I always tell people go and try out the device they want to buy if possible.
I have found Wirecutter as the premier source of news and reviews about a whole range of technology products. Their reviews are second to none. They are extremely in-depth in their coverage and will cover the good, bad and the ugly about the products they cover in each category.
They’ll offer more than once option in many categories along with prices and places to buy them. It’s become indispensable for recommending products I don’t know as much about. They constantly update their picks for their various categories so their information isn’t stale. They’ll post a warning if the product is about to see an update or if the information is old and being researched.
Sometimes the right decision is not to buy anything, or wait until a new version is available with a particular feature the customer needs. In some cases, buying an older model or refurbished model can save the customer money and still offer them exactly what they need.
For example, if the customer lives in an area without 4G cellular service, a more expensive device offering 4G may not be the best solution. Similarly, if a customer has a large library of Android applications, an Android tablet may make the best sense since they’re committed to the platform.
Each customer is different and there is no solution that fits everyone.