Understanding the customer’s needs is critical to moving them through their customer journey in their relationship with you. Like any relationship, it's based on communication - a two-way conversation with your customer. Let's face it. We’re not very good at it. And that's because we aren’t that good at listening. Discovering their pain points, and challenges as well as communicating your ideas, or solutions requires not only hearing but actively listening to the customer. What we're looking for is a real communication - a clear transmission of ideas back and forth.
Using questions we can open this channel of communication and set the right context for building lasting relationships. We've got so many opportunities to initiate conversations - surveys, direct mail campaigns, email campaigns, sales calls, customer service calls, and more.
Yet not all question types or questioning strategies are applicable to every situation. Customers can tell if we are leading them or trying to manipulate the conversation, or worse if we’re not even hearing what they are trying to communicate.
Role of Questions
We usually think of questions as a means of collecting information but this is only one of a number of things we can accomplish with questions. We constantly use questions to confirm information, show interest, plant an idea, prompt a topic or discussion, and much, much more. As an illustration of this variety here are a few characters:
- A journalist can use questions to collect information, get details or prompt a discussion.
- A lawyer can use questions to insinuate, cause doubt, or rattle a witness.
- A student can use questions to learn, confirm information or even show his knowledge on a subject.
- A teacher can use questions to make students think, test a student’s engagement or retention.
- A mother can use questions to show interest, or elicit an emotional response.
There is something to be learned from each character and you will likely need a number of these techniques to build your relationship with your customer - sometimes a lawyer, sometimes a teacher, sometimes a mother.
Your Question ToolKit
- Indirect Questions - With the intent of getting your customer to talk about the subject you set up some background, warm up and introductory questions. These are meant to lightly approach the subject but not necessarily get into too much detail.
- Closed Questions - These questions are structured to get a short “yes” or “no” response. Your respondent doesn’t have to work too hard to reply. These are great for checking facts, or details.
- Key Questions - These questions begin with “what”, “where”, “when”, “how”, or “why” and can lead to long replies, backstories, and reasons. These demand a lot from your customer so you don't want to have too many of them in one sitting. These can provide the most valuable information.
- Or Questions - These are set up giving two alternatives, so they have to choose between the options. It’s a way to get more details or even lead the customer to a specific thought process.
- Tag Question - These questions are in the form of a statement with a short,”isn’t it?”, “don’t they?” etc. at the end and are ideal for confirming information or planting a thought.
There are some things you just can't fake and nothing can replace genuine care. People can smell self-interest a mile away. If you want to help your customer and start a real conversation you need to start asking the right questions - stop and listen.
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