The "Q" F

Answers Come
Ask the Right


Easier Once You

by Craig Harrison       

   AS SALES PROFESSIONALS WE STRIVE TO HAVE ALL THE RIGHT ANSWERS. Yet of more immediate concern, should be whether we're asking the right questions. The best way to stay close to customers, abreast of trends and attuned to the marketplace is through your use of questions. 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 your customers:

  • If you could change one thing about (insert your business or service here), what would it be?
  • What additional service or products would you value? Why? How would that help your business?
  • What works well for you in our relationship? How might we tweak it further?
  • What is your peak time of the year? What is your lean time? What special needs arise during a typical year?
  • How can we help you be more successful? How can we help you do more business?
  • How can we improve our communication?
  • What are any needs of yours we aren't currently meeting?

   Notice that these are open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. That's 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, and more questions will naturally ensue. If they aren't happy you'll surely want to know why (which in itself is a new 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.

Asking "Write" Questions

   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.

For "Q's" Dial Direct

   Others prefer the telephone for asking questions of customers. It's 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.

The Answer is...Questions!

   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!

Craig Harrison is a speaker, trainer and communication coach who makes customer service and communication fun and easy. Contact him at 888.450.0664 or through for help in improving your communication skills and customer service orientation. Visit his website at