Getting Information from Customers through Questions

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

When you meet someone for the first time, asking questions is inevitable – they are required to understand a person. Business relationships are the same. In order to build strong ones and sustain them, it is important to get information from customers through asking the right questions. Company-customer relationships last only when there are things in common and both sides can trust each other. When a company endeavours to increase its business, it needs new customers. The first step would be getting information from customers by asking them pertinent questions – the answers of which will reveal more about the customer, their goals, and the reasons they chose your company to help their business. The best way to gain in-depth information from customers is by asking pointed and ‘right’ questions.

We have discussed several times, and businesses know that while customers may be repositories of knowledge, getting information from customers is not always an easy task. Companies that succeed in doing so could significantly improve their business, get a better understanding of the customer’s business, know the market and their competitors better, and may be even receive tips and referrals from their customers. To gain the maximum and most pertinent data however, companies must become smarter and ask the right questions, which in turn would lead to a better flow of communication between them and their customers. Every interaction is an opportunity to understand customers better and companies must use them to gain as much information from customers as would help them serve their customers better.

Many companies still make the mistake of asking questions to appear interested in customers. However, questions that elicit short responses such as ‘all is fine’ are not serving the purpose they should. There is not much that a company can determine from the ‘all is fine’ response and instead could lead companies to believe something that may not be true about the level of customer satisfaction. It is only by ‘digging’ deeper through right and pertinent questions that a company can gain information from customers that would be useful. Questions focused around service, the customer’s business, and their expectations from the association would help a company determine whether its service standards and product quality would measure up against the expectations of their customers.

In trying to gain information from customers, companies must understand that it is a process. The best questions would not get a company answers to every question – simply because the needs, expectations, situations, and demands of customers change continually. Hence, to keep pace with them, companies would need to frame and change their questions such that they elicit the most current and precise responses from customers. What are some of the questions that your company asks its customers? One of the possibly best questions to gain information from customers is to ask them what made them choose your company out of all the other ‘players’ in the market. Customers would be compelled to highlight the best aspects of the company and tell them how the o culture and vision measures up to help fulfil their goals. Not only will the company understand something about itself, but would also gain vital information about the hitherto unsaid expectations from the customer.

This first question would inevitably lead to a conversation, encouraging the company to ask more questions and leading customers to provide information that might otherwise have not been forthcoming. It is important to check with the customer about their future and immediate goals and the strategy in place to achieve them. This information from customers would enable the company to build a strong relationship with them by creating customized offerings and more customer-centric strategies. The company could benefit by letting new customers in on the schemes and strategies that existing customers used to advantage – this builds trust since it is proof that the company’s strategies are actually working. The more customers can trust a company, the more information they would be willing to divulge regarding their plans for the future – this will give the company an opportunity to become part of the company’s future and contribute to its success, which in turn would mean a long and profitable association.

When asking questions to gain information from customers, a company must keep its own business goals in mind too. It is important to know the customer’s perception of their company – to know what the company does better than others and the areas that need improvement. Ask customers what they believe differentiates your company from others – the value your company provides that no one else does. An understanding of this from a customer’s perspective, a company could strengthen their strategies and do away with anything that would detract from their uniqueness. The basic premise of gaining information from customers should be to create better experiences, service, and offerings for them. Hence, the questions should be directed towards both strengths and shortcomings – this will show the company’s dedication and commitment to ensure that customers have near perfect experiences, the company would be able to help them succeed and a focus on creating the best and most innovative offerings at the best prices.

Another ‘leading’ question that would gain vital information from customers is to check what the company believes is stopping them from achieving their top priorities and business goals. By getting answers to this question, a company can let customers know how it can remove the roadblocks and provide possible solutions to help them work through some of their priorities, if not all. Speaking knowledgeably and confidently about your company’s offerings, would instil trust and dependence in the customer, leading them to stay with a company for long.

Companies face challenges and so do their customers. In order to understand and gain information from customers about their challenges, a company would need to approach customers with smart questions. The fact is that some challenges can be embarrassing and customers may not be open to speaking about them. By asking customers whether the company is doing its best despite the challenges it faces, should encourage customers to reveal some of their own challenges. When a company displays its human side, it would encourage customers to be more at ease with their human failures too and use the question as an opportunity to get rid of those failures, with the help of a ‘human’ company. Building an emotional connection with customers through their pain points is not only a great way to gain information from customers, but also to firmly establish your company as the long-term solution provider.

In trying to get information from customers, it is vital that a company does not appear pushy or nosey – this would turn customers away. A company must be able to show customers that it is there for them, understands their pain, cares about the things they care about, and would help them whenever and however they need. The right and good questions form the basis of an open dialogue, which would help a company get to what is truly important for the customer and whether it has the capability to comply on a sustained basis. Asking pertinent questions must become a habit – a relentless process timed properly – in order to gain beneficial and vital information from customers.

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