I called my wireless service provider and spent 45 minutes on hold waiting to speak to a supervisor. I wish that statement above was the setup to a joke with a feisty and funny punchline. But it’s not. It’s part of a phone call that took up much of my Tuesday afternoon.
When I finally heard the supervisor’s voice on the other line, I was asked two simple questions that I answered the same way:
“Are you doing okay today?”
“Were we able to help you today?”
My frustration grew as the conversation continued to backtrack away from resolutions. I was never asked to explain why I called or what the error on my bill was that made me furiously request to talk to a supervisor. I was not being listened to and I was not being helped.
This story is an example of customer service gone wrong. One small change that could have made a big difference in our conversation came down to the questions I was being asked.
How do we ask better questions when we are helping our customers? Here are three tips to do that.
Rather than blurt out negative or accusatory statements at a customer, ask a question that will illicit important information.
Can you tell more about that situation?
Instead of: “I don’t understand you”
Where on your bill do you see that charge?
Instead of:You’re lying
Is this correct?
Instead of:You’re wrong/ You made a mistake
The more information you can gather from the person you are speaking with the more you’ll be able to point them to the correct solution. You will also be able to remind them that you are there to help them and that you care about their problem.
The supervisor I spent Tuesday afternoon with had a knack for asking me closed-ended questions. Those are questions that encourage a one-word answer. Closed-ended questions don’t allow the customer to explain themselves. Open-ended questions let the person speaking give full and meaningful answers.
Closed:“Have I been able to help you today?”
Open: “What can I help you with?”
Closed: “Are you calling about a problem on your bill?”
Open: “What part of your bill are you calling you about today?”
A benefit of open-ended questions is that customer service representatives can gather information on the subject’s feelings, attitudes, and potential a knowledge gap. This allows representatives to better serve the customer’s needs.
When your customer asks you a question speak the truth and only the truth. If you aren’t sure what they are asking, respond with strong open-ended follow-up questions. Rather than share irrelevant information or put them on hold for a long time, gather as much information as you can with solid questions first.
Keep a list of questions handy that let you discover more details from the conversation. That way, you’ll be prepared to tackle tough conversations.
‘Can you tell me more about that?”
“What have previous bills included that is missing here?”
“When did this problem start?”
“What could we do to help this situation?”
Empower your representatives to listen and ask the right questions so they can solve problems or requests. Give customers a plus one experience and your company will experience more loyalty from the people who keep you in business.
Subscribe to the IC weekly newsletter for tips and advice on your communication skills!
Effective communication is empowering. Get started on your path to being more clear, brief, and effective.Upcoming Classes