I’m working with a utility company in the northeast. All of my customer service workshops begin with what I call a Discovery Discussion – a video conference where I discover the problem my client needs me to solve. For my utility client, the discussion showed the most pressing issue was that Representatives didn’t know how to keep interactions focused and productive.
Conversation control. That’s the issue. My solution for this client was 4 ways to use questions to move conversations forward to solutions and then closure. Here’s what I gave them.
1. Ask a Focus Question
Focus questions help you, help your customer to focus on why they’ve called you. Try questions like:
“I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. What exactly do you need us to do?” Your tone is crucial here. Make sure you don’t sound condescending in any way.
“I see..so, how, exactly, can I help you with this?” Again, the tone is essential here.
“How, specifically, can I help you today?”
2. Use Clarifying Questions
When you’re just not sure what the customer needs, ask a question that helps you hone in on the issue. Like this:
“Just so I know exactly how to help you, you’re saying that you’re not receiving your statements, and you want me to tell you your current balance, correct?”
Just fill this statement in with whatever it is you think your customer is asking you.
3. Ask Questions That Are Easy For Your Customers to Answer
I have a client that sells a warranty protection plan. When customers call in to file a claim, the first question my client would ask was, “Claim number?” Most of their customers didn’t know their claim number. But, I found out accounts could also be looked up by using the customer’s email address. Everybody knows their email address. I suggested to my client that they just stop asking for a claim number since they could just as easily pull up the account with an email address. When they made this one little change, we shaved seconds off of calls and made things so much smoother.
4. Take Control with Assertive Statements
People love to tell their stories, and if you let them, they can ramble on for way too long. When you get the gist of what your customer is telling you, interject with an assertive statement like, “I hear what you’re saying, and I can help. Let me just ask you a couple of questions…fantastic! You’ve given me exactly what I need, to be able to look into this for you.”
“I know this has been frustrating for you. Let me try to help.”
“I know you’re upset. Let’s look at what we can do right now to try to fix this.”
And to make training your team to use these ideas easy, I’ve created a 4-minute video that walks customer service employees through each of these approaches.