Should I give a bad recommendation?
April 1, 2014 8:56 AM   Subscribe

A service company (an ISP who has crossed into communications) has asked if a potential client of theirs, with a similar configuration to our company, can contact me for a review of the ISP's phone service in contemplation of using the ISP for their phones. However, the equipment is terrible, there are voice quality and tech support issues, and their backend is woefully unprepared to deal with an organization that is geographically distributed (which is one of the similarities they will be asking about). Should I decline or give the people my honest opinion?

The crazy thing is that our account rep, who is the one asking me, is fully aware of the spit-flying rage that they've induced in me due to poor organization, lost information, long - LONG - hold times, configurations being changed without our knowledge or consent, tech support that doesn't know what I'm talking about, etc. The list goes on. Since signing on I spend about 3-4 hours per week talking to the ISP and trying to get problems ironed out. Since yesterday I've had two more issues with them, spending 1.5 hours on the phone trying to get static IP info from them (our company information was input wrong by the account rep and not only is this location listed as the parent company - not the company that it's actually under - but the tax id number is completely wrong!)

I've written many emails criticizing their equipment (Cisco phones SUCK ASS! from a user point of view), complaining about being on hold for an hour to get someone who can't find information about a specific location, configurations that have been changed COMPANY WIDE for no reason that took days to revert, et al. SHE KNOWS THIS and still is asking me to go to bat for them and talk another company into signing with them. They ARE less than half the price of the competitor we left them for, and that's the only thing that matters to my bosses. It's pretty obvious how they save money: by barely being able to get the job done.

Should I say, "Sure!" and then tell the other company the truth or just decline and let them find out themselves?
posted by dozo to Work & Money (14 answers total)
I would just decline.
posted by xingcat at 9:00 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you were the service company's potential customer, would you have wanted someone to tell you about the issues? I don't think you are doing the service company wrong when you've already told them the issues. "I'd be happy to tell them about my experiences with your service."
posted by Houstonian at 9:02 AM on April 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

the isp is drafting you for their sales team, but they aren't offering a commission? are they going to compensate you with better phones and service? if you want to spare them embarrassment, you could tell the account rep that it isn't a good idea for their potential clients to meet you because "your company sucks." alternatively, you could tell this to the prospective client.
posted by bruce at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Why are you so sure she's asking you to convince the other company to go with them? Take her at her word and give the other company your honest opinion. Think of this as if you were being listed as a job reference - when contacted, your responsibility is not to make sure the person gets hired - it's to give a brief assessment of their relevant strengths & weaknesses.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:37 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would just straight up say to the rep, I had significant problems with your service, and would be ethically bound to disclose them in any review. Are you OK with that? And if they are, I would proceed.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 9:38 AM on April 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

What's the upside for you if you talk to the potential customer? Revenge? You will still need to deal with this rep after costing them a sale, literally taking money out of their pocket.
What happens if the salescreature complains to your boss?
Decline and save your honest opinion for anonymized web posts.
posted by Sophont at 10:10 AM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd probably play it a little subtler than El Sabor, just because you'll have to keep working with this person, but along the same lines--I would say something like 'While I am willing to provide a reference, it won't be a one-hundred-percent positive one,' and then give the rep the chance to think for a moment before they say 'well, thank you for your honesty' or 'okay, I'll give 'em your contact info.'
posted by box at 10:26 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: "You don't want me to tell them what I think of the service," or just, "I'm not the right person for this." The droid might simply think the problems you've been having are just part and parcel to the way things are, that they have lower standards than you do, upshot being that coming to terms over a recommendation might light a fire under them for the future.
posted by rhizome at 10:50 AM on April 1, 2014

Best answer: Call him/her back and say, "I was a bit taken back when you asked me to be a reference. I'm sure you know that based on our history, we've had quite a few problems with the caliber of the service you provide, and of our interactions with your staff when we've tried to rectify problems. Just yesterday, I was on hold for nearly two hours just trying to get an IP address so we could trouble-shoot. I don't think I'd be a good reference at this point. Perhaps if my problems were resolved quickly and easily, then I could be, but right now, that's not the case."

Wow, what nerve.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:54 AM on April 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Didn't notice this before:

They ARE less than half the price of the competitor we left them for, and that's the only thing that matters to my bosses.

I follow a twist on an old saw: you don't get what you don't pay for.
posted by rhizome at 11:31 AM on April 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: "Due to the on-going issues we've had with service and equipment, I don't think we are the best client for your potential customer to talk with".

She may very well have sent her request to her top 10 clients (or 10 random clients) without thinking it through. Whether that's the case or not, you do still have to work with this vendor.

It's nervy of them to make this request of you, but you should still be professional and be above the temptation to seek revenge against them by costing them new clients. Who knows, ten years from now you and this sales rep could both be at new companies working together, and she might go the extra mile for you there because you handled this issue so well this time.
posted by vignettist at 1:02 PM on April 1, 2014

I used to work for a similar isp that had similar problems. What I would do if I were you is type up an email that lists all your current problems and say that you'll do it if they send someone on site for a week and resolve all of your outstanding configuration and quality issues.

Then your review should basically be something like "there have been a lot of support issues, but it's really inexpensive compared to the competition".
posted by empath at 5:41 PM on April 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everyone. They are all good! I favorited several (they were good but maybe not the best answer) but the best course of action, I think, is politely declining with a hint of why.

What's the upside for you if you talk to the potential customer?

The reason I'd considered giving an honest review is that I'd have wanted one when we were sold the product, but at the time it was a newer service that didn't have any customers with our set up to ask.

bruce, I had the same feeling initially but I don't think that's the best idea. This ISP is the best in the area, just their new phone service offering is not ready for prime time, so I'd hate to be overly contentious and shoot myself in the foot down the road (like at another job!).
posted by dozo at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2014

Response by poster: Update: I declined and told them why. We've had a meeting over the issues and they've pledged to do better. We still have problems. :(
posted by dozo at 11:24 AM on April 28, 2014

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