A Quest for Improvement
Answers Come Easier Once You Ask The
By Craig Harrison
On the TV game show Jeopardy, contestants are given the answers and challenged to furnish the questions. Conversely, in business, we are challenged to provide answers only after we know what the questions are. My question to you: What questions are you asking?
The best way to stay close to customers, abreast of trends and attuned to the marketplace is through your use of questions. Have I piqued your curiosity?
Questions do so many things for your customers, for you and your relationship with customers. For instance, questions can:
Open the door to new learning, offering you insight into your customers' experience
Indicate an interest and suggest a level of concern that customers appreciate
Probe factual, psychological and emotional reactions to your products, services, procedures and personnel
Engender trust between parties
Propel relationships as they uncover buying patterns, usage patterns, and future plans and needs
What sort of questions do you ask your clients, customers, vendors and employees?
Here are some open-ended questions intended to probe client satisfaction and gain insight into their experience as customers:
Notice that these open-ended questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. That is intentional. Asking a yes-no question, such as whether a customer is happy or not, only begs more questions. If they are happy, they are ripe for an expanded relationship. If they aren't you'll surely want to know why (which in itself is a second question), so as to keep their loyalty and avoid losing others' allegiance as well. So strive to ask open-ended questions to glean the most useful information.
One of the hardest parts about asking questions concerns blind spots. There may be questions you should be asking that you aren't. Let's face it, just as you don't know what you don't know, how do you know what questions you should be asking? Let your desire to better serve your customer be your guide.
Questions can be posed in many ways. Sometimes they can be asked in print, through response cards and surveys. E-mail surveys and questionnaires achieve nice response rates. Whether sent after a service transaction, or on a quarterly or seasonal basis, they offer advantages to telephone or in-person dialog; Respondents feel freer in giving honest and sometimes negative feedback in writing.
Others prefer the telephone for asking questions of customers. Itís direct and allows for real time dialog. You can read cues from your caller's tone of voice, and yours can also convey concern, regret, as well as genuine appreciativeness and care.
Ours is a culture in which questions are both entrees to conversation, and an expression of our concern. By taking the time to ask about your customer's experience you demonstrate care, concern and pave the way for continuous improvement through the answers they return. Thank you for asking!