Answering the “what do you recommend” question.

In light of my recent post about my interesting experience at Blockbuster, I started thinking about situations in which employees of various companies might have an opportunity to either up or downsell you based on their own opinions and tastes.

The situation I kept coming back to and thinking of was the classic example of a customer asking a waiter or waitress what they would recommend on a menu, what they think of a particular item on a menu, or something similar. This is probably the most common situation in which an employee of a company is asked to provide their feedback about something offered by the company.

I usually hear pretty good things coming back from the staff in response to these types of questions. If they don’t like the dish, the reason is usually something general like “I don’t like seafood” or “I don’t really eat meat.” I’ve never heard a waiter answer the question with “it’s terrible”, “I wouldn’t feed it to my dog”, or “it makes a great door stop.”

My general rule is to be as honest as possible. If you don’t like something personally, you can say that, but word it carefully. For example:

Customer: Do you like the XYZ salad?
Waiter: It’s not really the type of salad I’d order, but it is a popular item and I’ve never heard a customer complain about it.

That’s a common and effective response. Chances are, customers don’t complain about any particular dish too consistently (one would hope such dishes would be removed from the menu or fixed), so recommendations like that are typically pretty “safe.”

Another generally safe and effective approach is to suggest something else at the same time. For example:

Customer: What do you think of the XYZ salad?
Waiter: It’s quite good, but to be honest, the ABC salad is our popular salad and customers are always saying how great it is.

The point is to be honest while being careful. Customers want your opinion, but they also don’t want to get too discouraged or begin thinking they made a wrong choice. When providing your recommendations, advice, and opinions, let them know what you think and if what they’re thinking isn’t exactly what you think is best, gently tell them why and provide appropriate suggestions.

One Response to “Answering the “what do you recommend” question.”

  1. Leila Maucha said:

    Jul 20, 09 at 9:02 am

    Wonderful idea,thanks