Is it important to evaluate technology in person or is purchasing online sufficient?




Back in 1989, Back to the Future II came out. Marty McFly travelled forward to 2015 and was greeted by a future with flying cars, hover boards, nuclear powered home reactors and self- tying shoes. At the time, our vision of the future was on major breakthroughs in transportation. In fact it was way off the mark in almost every respect. Shame really, as hover technology and flying cars would have been aces.

What actually occurred was a system that allowed anyone connected to it access to almost any bit of information ever written down. It meant that we could all talk to and write to and see each other in real-time, anywhere in the world where the system existed. And the system exists in over 40% of the world, giving access to over 3 billion people. (Yes, that’s right 1989, the world’s population has grown by 2 billion [40%] since Back to the Future II). Who needs flying cars when you can video chat with your mum in Sheffield, from your house in Basingstoke, without having to even leave the living room?

In fact, the Internet has given us every excuse in the world to be lazy with our communication. It has spawned its own horrible language because using real words is just way too much effort.

“Tx for dnr had gr8 nite. C u tmr.”


And the text generation see it as time saving, but how often is ‘time-saving’ really just laziness. I use text messages and Facebook, but I still use proper grammar and punctuation. I pride myself on it. Funnily enough, you don’t see ‘txt spk’ nearly as much, if at all, on Linked In. It doesn’t seem right on a business level, so are there some things that still need to be done in the old fashioned way? Not hand-writing letters and posting them perhaps, but phoning up, talking and arranging to meet. I certainly think so.

So what is the cut-off?

When does something become important enough to invest some serious face-time into it? For me, as a consumer, it is the point at which the investment is more than I am willing to write-off if necessary. It isn’t necessarily a pound sterling value, although this is often a major contributing factor, but the impact that a bad decision may have on me and / or people that I care about.

Buying a car is a great example. I would spend time on the Internet researching the car I would like. I would look up reviews, performance figures and factory options. I would run various price comparisons and, upon finding a dealer, I would phone them up and book to come and see the car. I could just get my bank card out and buy it there and then on the phone, based on what I have seen and read, but it just isn’t worth it. Here’s why:

  1. It is a big financial investment. I want to see it for myself.
  2. My family will be traveling in this vehicle and I would want to feel that it is suitable. 
  3. I would want to know that it is nice to drive, easy to use and comfortable as I will be using it every day.
  4. I would want to meet the seller and decide for myself, is this is a person I trust?

So why would this be different if you were buying software for your business? To my mind it wouldn’t. I like to think of an online demo as being Internet research, helping you to narrow the choices down. If I were buying, rather than selling it, I would then want to visit the offices, meet the people and get a feel for the company. Frankly, the costs between systems are not so great as to be a realistic deal-breaker for a serious recruitment consultancy, so it comes down to something else:

“What suits my needs? What helps me to generate revenue? Who do I trust?

Check a company’s finances. Take references. Visit their offices. Meet the support team. It’s a big decision that could cost you your business if you get it wrong. Expect more than just an online demo. Expect a proper, old-fashioned wooing.

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