March 12, 2013

Questioning Techniques to Enhance Customer Service

Questioning Techniques to Enhance Customer Service featured image

While being a customer representative is all about answering questions, the best performers in this field are also adept at asking questions.

When people call your business seeking information or help with their problems, what kind of response will your team give them? If your reps are skilled in questioning techniques, they can guide the conversation with effective questions and find an answer that’s satisfying to everyone.

Questioning skills are often used in a classroom or educational settings, but when you introduce them into the workplace through training, they represent an exciting tool kit for your employees to work with. Your customers will reap the benefits of better service. That in turn will build their engagement and loyalty to the brand, so everyone wins.

What Are Some Useful Questioning Techniques for Customer Service?

Before asking a question, it can be worth thinking about what that question is accomplishing. Is it likely to get valuable information from a customer, or is it a dead-end in the conversation?

Being aware of different questioning techniques doesn’t necessarily mean using a wide variety of questions. In fact, employees who have highly developed questioning skills are likely to avoid several question types altogether.

The following are a few of the techniques that go into effective questioning:

Understanding open question vs. closed question use

Closed-ended questions give only a few possible answers. Yes or no. Good or bad. One thing or another. This type of query has its place, such as when a customer needs help and a rep is getting to the heart of the matter.

In other cases, such as when soliciting client feedback, an open-ended question will give far more value. Job site Indeed specified that when a company is seeking to truly understand how customers feel, they should go with open questions: How can we improve? Why did you choose us? Why did you take a particular action?

Understanding what types of questions get which types of answers — and when to deploy each one — are good questioning skills for employees to build, leading to fruitful client conversations.

Avoiding leading questions

Just as it’s important to know whether a question is open or closed, it’s also worth understanding how not to ask a leading question. When a query is designed to deliver a specific response through the way it’s framed, it’s a leading question.

As SurveyMonkey’s Curiosity at Work blog pointed out, companies often ask leading questions to try and elicit a specific response that will flatter the business: Were our services good today? Did our industry-leading team help you today? This might make the results seem very positive in the short term, but the truth is more valuable. The company needs honest responses it can act on.

When customer service personnel have good questioning skills, they can make sure they’re asking neutral questions targeting clear, accurate responses. This allows them to get the real story from customers, to better diagnose and fix any problems people are experiencing.

By the same token, it’s worth noting that rhetorical questions get even less information than leading questions. Rather than one correct answer, they aren’t meant to get an answer of any kind.

How Do You Train Employees in Questioning Techniques?

It may be tempting to assume the ability to make good conversation is simply a personality trait that some people have and others don’t. On the contrary, this and other soft skills can be taught, and training is available to help your employees enhance their questioning strategy.

A digital course designed to teach questioning techniques and critical thinking skills will lead your employees through the many ways to ask a question, showing off which ones work best in particular situations. For example, How to Improve Your Questioning Skills specifically focuses on teaching seven methods:

  1. Open question
  2. Closed question
  3. Probing question
  4. Echo question
  5. Leading question
  6. The “And” questioning technique
  7. Interpreting disguised responses

By becoming familiar with the rhetorical devices at their disposal and learning how best to use them, your service representatives will be able to have more rewarding conversations with clients. Getting honest and actionable information from customers is an essential part of providing good service in the moment and improving the company in the long term.

In addition to helping your team gather better data, effective questioning techniques can make customers feel like their problems are being heard and understood. Creating this relationship is a cornerstone of customer service and worth pursuing.

Your service transformation can start with better questioning — and that comes from training.

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