Some retail sales guys know how to treat an IT user

There’s nothing wrong with working at Future Shop, but I think Ben has more potential than that.

My wife and I finally managed to choose a laptop that will hopefully get us through the next couple of years. As I may have mentioned, this wasn’t easy for us. We knew what we wanted – something bigger than 13 inches, something light, something with a decent graphics card and something that wouldn’t cost us more than $1,500. It should have been easier than it was.

Based on the selection we had, we were looking at a 17-inch HP machine worth $1,117 with I think 3GB of RAM, an Nvidia graphics card and a bunch of other stuff. There was also a 15-inch model with a similar amount of memory but a lesser graphics card. Then there was a Toshiba which had better memory and graphics but a slower AMD processor (at least I think; it’s all a blur now). We couldn’t make up our minds. Which is where Ben came in.

He didn’t crack a smile, but in his own way Ben managed to muster enough soft skills to help us think strategically about our option. Based on what we told him, he explained that the graphics and memory in the other units wouldn’t help if we were running Adobe Premier on the smaller machines. “It’s not like it won’t perform, but it won’t be a pleasant experience,” he warned. We weren’t completely sure we needed Premier, but both of us are potentially going to be working with videos, so it was a case of future-proofing, much in the way that a business wants to be sure its IT can handle all the various projects that are going to depend on it.

As we continued to dither (the smaller machines were only $800, after all), he pointed us to yet another alternative, which had a better processor and the same memory and graphics capability in the same price range. It was an LG machine, and although we considered it, the screen was only 14 inches.

Now, I know that there must have been a part of Ben that was thinking we were crazy for choosing a laptop based on only an inch of screen real estate, but the truth is we may not need Premier, and that was the only program we could see that would be enhanced by the higher-end, larger laptop. He never let on though, even to give that annoying “O-kay” that implies, “You’re making a big mistake, but if that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing I can do about it.” He simply talked to us about how quickly his team would get the laptop set up for us and when we could pick it up.

This was a sales guy, but I didn’t see a trace of bias, even a bias based on his own preferences as a user. He talked to us like a knowledgeable friend (or maybe a coworker; it wasn’t a touchy-feely vibe). He listened very carefully to every one of our questions. Once the decision was made, he was all about making it happen.

There are IT departments all over the place that could learn from such a low-pressure, cooperative approach. In fact, I’d recommend any CIO out there scouting for talent to talk to Ben. Right after he finishes getting my new Toshiba laptop ready.

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