Asking Customers the Right Questions

“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers.” Robert Half

Customers ask companies and their representatives, questions of all kinds and all the time – it is an essential part of learning about the company and getting service. On the other end of this spectrum are companies, asking customers the right questions. In fact, this ‘questioning’ is at the heart of marketing, sales and great customer service. Developing the art of asking customers the right questions will often be the difference between customers providing great feedback and helping your company or clamming up leaving your company to wonder what went wrong. The right questions elicit great responses and have the ability to change the mind-set of customers, drive engagement and create long-term connections and relationships. Asking customers the right questions will ensure that they provide you with accurate information and insights into their world, which in turn raises the understanding companies have of customers.

When a company is able to ask customers the right questions that will help the company understand their needs and expectations, customers perceive that they are at the centre and focus of a company’s strategies and operations. The focus lies on giving the customers what they want and being relentlessly curious about what how to serve the customers better and provided customized solutions.

The ‘right’ questions are effective because they have focus and lead to new ideas and thoughts. Asking customers the right questions must elicit answers that go beyond ‘yes’ and ‘no’. As a customer, you would have noticed that when you approach a company with a problem, they usually have set of questions that serve to get you thinking and most often resolve the problem through the answers. There are no assumptions when asking the questions, but rather these questions point in the direction of understanding and resolving the problem – this is what asking customers the right questions is about.

Asking customers the right questions does not stop at the ‘asking’ but implies the ability of the questioner to listen to what they have to say. Customer service representatives repeat certain questions day in and day out to countless customers and there is a very real danger that they have preconceived notions and judgements on the answers. However, if a company is to gain any real value from asking customers the right questions, assumptions and judgement should be at bay when listening for the answers. By listening intently, customers perceive genuine interest on the part of the company to serve them well. This in turn makes them more amenable to share information and data that would provide invaluable insights into their needs and expectations. With such valuable information, companies can enhance their customer service and product quality, manifold.

Asking your customers the right questions is about gaining vital clues from them regarding why they continue to provide business to your company, what can your company do better, what is it that makes your company’s offerings stand out from the rest and other such ‘leading’ questions. Asking customers the right questions will help your company to gain a strong hold over the different aspects of the customer’s business and beyond and such understanding ensures that both service and products are customized to exceed the customer’s expectations. Consistently exceeding expectations and providing stellar service lead to customer engagement, loyalty and profitability.

Consistently asking customers the right questions also means that your company has been listening attentively and is constantly striving to give customers more and better. Questioning is about gaining in-depth understanding into how your company and its offerings and customer service help the customers to meet their goals. It is about getting insights into the needs of the customer without pushing a sale, thereby gaining the trust of the customers. Customers that like and trust a company stay with it and share their experiences with their friends and associates, leading to more business for the company. When customers speak well, of a company and are willing to give them repeat business, the reputation of the company is significantly enhanced, gaining market leadership for the company.

An understanding of the customers leads to customized solutions and products that will be immediately taken by the customer since they will reflect the real-world insights into the customer’s business and maybe even some personal details. Attentively listening for example, will allow a company remember for example the birthday or other dates that would be significant to the customer. Such focus builds a rapport and relationship with customers, which, with time, only gets better and more profitable.

Okay – so your representatives are now proficient in asking customers the right questions. However, this proficiency is useless if they do not take time to hear the responses – both verbal and non-verbal. It is the job of the customer service representatives and other members of the company to interpret the customer answers to be able to ask more questions, provide solutions and effectively sell. Listening is a quintessential part of asking questions and it is critical to listen without judgement and bias. It involves ‘listening to’ body language, expressions, tone and pitch of voice and even the use of words. Without listening, even the best and right questions would serve no purpose.

Asking customers the right questions is a process that is followed by listening. The listening is followed by succinctly and lucidly repeating your understanding of what the customer said in order to let them know that you were listening. Customers, even angry ones, are more likely to give you a chance if they feel that they have been heard. Such vocalization would usually be followed by some more questions to do away with any ambiguity and gaps in the understanding. Easy customer service is about assisting customers even with asking the right questions such that they are rid of any doubts and queries they may have.

Asking customers the right questions must display your company’s eagerness and focus on the customer, without appearing inquisitive and creepy. The questions you ask them must arouse their curiosity and motivate them to answer your next question without feeling impatient or scrutinized. The more questions you can get the customer to answer, the better and deeper will your understanding be of them. However, curb the excitement and enthusiasm that will stand in the way of silence. If you keep asking them questions without remaining silent and affording them the opportunity to speak, the very purpose of questioning is defeated.

Customers love companies that pay attention to them and make them feel valued. Asking customers the right questions can bring about these feelings in your customers. Statistics prove that there is great power in asking the right questions. The chances of having a positive effect on customers increase by about 4.1 times by asking the right questions, the outcome is seen as important 3.1 times more often and most crucial for companies is that the right questions increase the likelihood of making a positive impact on the profitability of the company by about 2.7 times! Reason enough to be asking customers the right questions. It would be foolish to underestimate the power of asking customers the right questions – they have the ability to raise their trust in your company. In addition, your company gains the expertise to create products and services that customers will love and return to and bring their friends.

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