To Ask or Not To Ask….Those Customer Questions

In order for our agents to be successful on their sales and service calls, they must be proficient in using the best questions to control the direction of the conversation and find out the customers needs and concerns.

Many agents are so process focused that the only questions they ask are the verification closed-ended kind:  What is your name, address, phone number, account number, item number? Some of these same agents tell me “I already know what the customer wants.  I take hundreds of these calls.  I don’t need to ask.”  The process-focused agents sound scripted, brusque and over controlling to the customers.  They are on a mission to get to the end of the call and the customer better get out of the way.

Some agents are afraid to ask questions because the Supervisor is watching their talk times and questions make the call longer.  I love to coach with them because once an agent learns to ask the “right” questions to ask, their talk time doesn’t increase but often goes down.  They not only find out quickly what is needed but they can even spend some extra time giving those customers what I lovingly call the “warm fuzzies”, i.e. engagement and empathy.

When we monitor calls, we may hear an agent losing control of the call to a customer telling personal stories or going off track from the business being discussed.  Once again, questions can save the day.

A simple but effective method of regaining control of the call is to use a business-focused question after following these steps:

1. Use the customer’s name:  When the customer is rambling, your agent begins to regain control by first saying the customer’s name politely

2. Give empathy or comment on what they said:  This is the tricky part. Too much empathy and too many comments will simply encourage the customer to keep talking about that vacation on and on.  The agent should simply say, “Mr. ______ how nice that you were able to see your grandkids. I know you had a great time”, and then immediately go to Step 3.

3. Use a “bridge”:  The bridge will connect your comment to a question about business.  An example is a simple phrase to change direction such as:  “Oh, I noticed that you have….”

4. After the Bridge, Ask a Closed Ended Question related to the goal of the call:  “Would you like that sent overnight or 2 day shipping?”

Role-play, coach and discuss with your team ways to use questions to control the call direction, find out customer needs and provide a great Customer Experience.


About the author

John Englund

John is a copywriter at Intradiem. He has a background in print and broadcast journalism and digital marketing with emphasis on technology.

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