If you build it, he will come. Or so goes the famous quote. I see this phrase as a metaphor guiding the recommendations of some solely profit-driven technicians in the computer repair and tech industry at large. Technology before purpose; technology above emotion; and the misnomer that technology sells itself.
These are all misguided principles in a digital age that is only becoming more entrenched both in work and personal aspects of life. While some companies, like Apple, can get away with creating blind demand for product, computer repair technicians need to follow more logical approaches to consulting their customers to avoid becoming seen as mere salesman at a big box retailer, itching for every dollar of margin they can drive.
Let’s face it. Budgets aren’t limitless. People’s emotions play a big part into how they purchase technology. And this is the heart of the reason why some customers will agree to pay for certain services over others. No matter how logical or clear something may seem to a technician, unless a certain need is filled by a piece of technology, its value is non-existent to a potential customer.
Time and time again, my company FireLogic is called in to clean up situations where technology was blindly installed to fill unwanted needs or to disproportionately replace other technology before it. This approach is very close to that of what smooth talking car salesman are good at doing. Up-selling vehicles with features people don’t need, or inflating the perceived needs gap so that people fall victim into purchasing more car than they originally intended. Computer repair technicians are in the business of not just pushing product – they are called on to provide unbiased, experienced judgement for the computing needs of individuals and businesses.
Don’t overlook customer emotions
I learned this fact the hard way after a proposed customer project fell flat before takeoff. We properly made the business, technical, and financial case for why a critical piece of software would be better suited being moved and upgraded to a different industry-standard platform. In the end, it doesn’t matter what system they were coming from or supposed to move to because ultimately the project sputtered before any proposal was approved.
What we clearly misjudged was the emotion that went into the product that the customer was using. The piece of software happened to be implemented and supported by a good friend of the customer, and even though our solution was cheaper, faster, and future-proofed, it didn’t matter in the end. The customer had an emotional tie to the platform which extended beyond the technical specs and bottom line surrounding the project. We could have pushed our case (and won) with almost any other business owner. But there was baggage that had to be realized here, and as a result, we backed away and considered it a dead end.
Don’t be afraid to concede defeat to a customer’s emotion. It’s a battle that, no matter how great new tech can be, will never win the hearts and minds of every customer you serve.
Perceived benefit doesn’t always match realized benefit
Hybrid cars are great money savers on gas – until you realize that you won’t actually recoup the initial investment until years after usage. On-premise servers don’t require a subscription like cloud services require – but their licensing and maintenance costs can easily change a business owner’s mind. The problem with technicians that trumpet technology specs above all else is that don’t have a macro view of the customer’s perspective.
I personally love technology and enjoy getting wrangled into discussions about why one concept is better than another. But when it comes to consulting customers, there is no such thing as an “obvious” answer. When coming up with proposals to meet customer needs, I put myself in their shoes to see what their perspective is on a given need. What do they want to spend? What will suit them best for the long term? What’s more than just cool – but actually gets the job done in the given budget and is proven to work as advertised? If you’re merely out supporting one brand’s products because you happen to be receiving commission on sales, then you’re going to lose the trust of your customers sooner or later.
A well-informed technician is able to wade through the distortion field that exists in many aspects of our industry and filter out the knowledge that a customer needs to make an informed decision. The closer you can match realized and perceived benefits, the better your repeat business and referrals will end up being. It’s a proven recipe that works.
Even great technology can still suck
Google Wave was a technology full of promise. It mended the gap between email and other forms of IM, and looked to create a landscape of messaging that was truly email on steroids. It died before it ever went primetime. The same fate fell on the Palm Foleo. If we want to be technically accurate, it was the first true Netbook before Asus’ EEE became a household name.
What do all of these infamous technologies have in common? They met needs which no customers needed filled at the time. To the same extent, they represented a perception gap with their intended audience. Reality just didn’t match up with what the developers expected customers to believe. As technicians, we need to be mindful that just because some technology is great, that doesn’t mean it sells itself. That is, good tech requires purpose and proven need in order to fully satisfy a customer’s desires. Too many times when I see overbearing technology pushed on customers by former IT support companies, it makes me wonder where the technicians’ real allegiance sat: with that of the customer or that of their vendor.
Some of the points I touched on this article were directly pulled from my formal writeup on how to manage customer hardware and software lifecycles which is a great read as well. The biggest thing to remember here is that we need to keep our audience (aka clients) in mind before recommending technology. Even the greatest technologies out on the market can be useless to someone who has no emotional desire for it, or that doesn’t provide the ROI they were looking for.
Either way, as technicians, we are considered the first line of defense when it comes to recommendations and implementation of good solutions. If we break that trust with our customers, our consulting roles will merely be reduced to that of a disposable commodity – up for bid to the lowest priced technician. Technology isn’t always the solution; sometimes it becomes the hindrance for progress.