I think it’s important to make a distinction between referrals and recommendations.  Because if we recommend someone who doesn’t deliver, it reflects poorly on us.  It affects our credibility, and that’s really important these days.

So in the interest of reminding myself to be careful who I recommend, I’m going to give an example of both.

“I know three real estate agents who work in the area of Anytown.  I haven’t worked with any of them, below is their contact info so you can reach out and interview them to find someone who is a good fit.

Suzie Q (insert contact info)

Joe Blow (insert contact info)

John Q (insert contact info)”

I hope it’s quite evident that I consider the above a referral.

“Below is the contact information for Irving Inspector.  I have worked with him several times and he has always done a good job for me,  Please feel free to connect with him to see if he can help you.  (Insert contact info)”

The above is my idea of a recommendation.  If Irving doesn’t respond to a request, or does a poor job, I would hope that the person to whom I gave the information would let me know.  Or the reverse, if they did a great job.  Nice to know that you have helped both parties.

Now, what about when you have been asked for referrals for someone who provides a service, and you have worked with the person but weren’t happy?

  • Thumbs DownDo you give out the contact information with the caveat that you were not happy with the service?
  • Do you say you don’t know anyone?
  • Do you give out the contact information but make no reference to whether you were pleased or not?
  • Do you say “Yes, I do know someone, but I can’t recommend them.”
  • Do you simply refer someone else if you do know more than one person providing that same service?
  • Do you warn people away?

I guess it brings up the need to be very careful.  I remember a few years ago I incorrectly told people that person A had done something that I perceived to be unethical.  I later found out that I was wrong, that in fact person A had done nothing wrong, and that I was the one who didn’t understand.  I then tried to the correct the erroneous information, but who knows how much damage I had done.

So recommendations – or the opposite – can cut both ways.  Which one of the options above do you subscribe to, and how would you handle the situation?