Excellent customer service often appears like a well-rehearsed theatre production – smooth, effective, and hopefully enjoyable to experience. In reality, there are many factors that go on behind the scenes to create this illusion.
Despite what it may seem like, fantastic customer service requires much more than simply being friendly to customers and fixing their problems. It’s an active process that entails skills development and practice.
Customer service providers should work on developing a Service Mentality and employing active listening skills. Beyond these two important factors, though, is the useful ability to ask effective questions of your customers. The key to using effective questioning techniques is to know which type of question to ask in any given situation. While this may seem like a minor detail, the costs of ineffective questions are anything but.
Why do questioning techniques matter?
Customers expect for their queries to be handled quickly and painlessly. In fact, according to a HubSpot Research report, 90% of consumers rate an immediate response as an important or very important part of their customer service experience. And, one-third of consumers reported that they find having to repeat information multiple times to multiple people as the most frustrating customer service problem.
Questioning techniques become important in quickly obtaining the necessary information to solve your customer’s problem. This is particularly crucial if customers have had to wait on hold as they’re already likely feeling frustrated by the delay. Asking the appropriate questions will reassure your customer that you’re doing all you can to work quickly and accurately to solve their problem. It also demonstrates to the customer that you’re competent at your job and can handle their problem, whatever it may be.
Once you’ve asked all the right questions, it’s important to ensure that you’ve documented the answers so that, should the customer need to be transferred to another department or a different representative, that information can be transferred as well without the annoyance of having to repeat information on the part of the customer.
Did you know that not all questions are created equal?
Customer service providers are, in most cases, expected to be expert problem solvers. In almost all business interactions, the customer is speaking to you because they need something. They might need to:
- Order a product
- Clarify a product’s features
- Access support for a product
- Find a solution to a product or service that isn’t performing as intended
In order to have all of the tools needed to solve a customer’s problem, it’s up to the employee to know which questions to ask to uncover the details that will allow them to efficiently solve a problem to the high standard of the customer. The questions that a customer service provider will ask to find out about a customer’s interest in ordering a product are likely to be different than if the customer is calling to report that their product or service is malfunctioning or not working as they wished.
Asking the wrong questions is bound to cause unnecessary frustration for both you and the customer that is likely to color their experience with your company. You won’t get the information you need to do your job, and the customer won’t have their problem solved as quickly as they’d like. Additionally, asking the wrong type of question can lead to your customer providing you with far too much information, which may steer the call or interaction off track, wasting time for you both. Knowing which types of questions to ask in which situations is an effective way to manage and keep control of the conversation while also providing a high level of service to the customer.
What types of questions are there?
There are seven types of questioning techniques described in the ServiceSkills course on this subject. These include:
- Open-ended questions
- Probing questions
- Echo questions
While these question types may sound familiar to you or may seem self-explanatory, the key is in knowing how to match the proper question type to the appropriate situation. For instance, open-ended questions are useful for finding out additional important information from a client or encouraging the customer to open up a bit more. They would not be an appropriate question type if you’re looking for a specific response to tie down a sale or find out a specific piece of information that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
Additionally, when used properly, echo questions can be an effective way to gently prompt the customer for more information by demonstrating that you were listening to their response and need clarification on something they said that may have been vague. While echo questions may seem risky as they could be perceived as annoying if used improperly, well-executed echo questions will nudge the customer in the right direction without seeming pushy. So, the process of using effective questioning techniques is twofold: first, learn about the types of questions; second, learn to match these various question types to a range of scenarios. The result will be a customer service experience worthy of a Tony Award!
To learn more about effective questioning techniques, visit ServiceSkills.com and speak to a representative.