Many support teams focus solely on answering questions rather than asking them. Here’s why that’s not enough.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about customer service is that a successful support interaction is a transaction.
Think about your most trusted friends, family members and mentors.
When you come to them with a problem, do they simply respond with an answer?
Or do they ask questions and go deeper, to get you the best solution possible?
We trust these people precisely because their advice isn’t transactional. They ask questions that show that they really want to get the best answers for us, and that they want to better understand the issues and challenges that lie beneath our question.
Sure, there are plenty of support interactions that don’t require much digging. Simple requests are often best met with simple responses.
But consider this example:
As the support agent here, you have one or two options:
- Point the customer to your knowledge base article on setting up their mailbox, or
- Do that, but dig deeper and see how else you can help this customer be successful with your product.
Excellent customer service experiences are created at the margins, when support agents go beyond simply answering the question (which everyone can and needs to do), and takes things a step further.
Below is a seven-question toolkit that you can use to dig deeper to deliver better support in just about any customer service scenario:
1) What can I do to make this right for you?
When dealing with angry or frustrated customers, it’s almost never enough to simply answer their concern. By the time they’re frustrated, you owe them an apology at the very least, and possibly more.
If you’re not sure what it would take to make them happy, don’t be afraid to ask!
By showing an eagerness to do right by them, you can begin to bridge the gap between your customer’s dissatisfied state and where you want them to be.
2) Can you help me understand this a bit better?
I always find it so frustrating when I email a company for support (airlines and credit card companies are especially bad at this), and get a response that shows that they didn’t understand my question.
If you don’t completely understand the question, you can’t give a clear answer. So don’t try.
It’s ok to ask a customer to clarify a point; they’ll appreciate the effort that you’re putting in to help them thoroughly a lot more than they’ll appreciate an answer to the wrong question.
3) What made you decide to try/buy?
Here’s why this question is so powerful: it will tell you exactly what success with your product means to the customer. Often, success means different things to different customers.
For example, with Groove, some customers’ primary motive for signing up is because they want easier collaboration across their support team. For some, it’s about visibility into support metrics. There are lots of other reasons, but unless we have this insight into each customer, we can’t actually tailor an experience for them that actually helps them succeed.
That’s why we ask every new customer why they signed up for Groove.
It doesn’t just get us powerful copy to use in our marketing; it helps us create better experiences for all of our customers.
4) What challenge are we not solving for you that we could be?
Regular readers of this blog know that long-term customer loyalty isn’t just about great support; it’s about making life as easy for your customers as you possibly can.
Whether it’s a new feature, a fix that you’re not yet considering or an additional product, there’s a great chance that your customers have other challenges that you have the expertise and ability to solve for them.
Doing that gives you a huge opportunity to upsell and cross-sell, delivering even more value and building deeper relationships with your customers (and of course, increasing revenue!).
5) How likely are you to refer us?
We ask this question often, as it’s a great way to gauge customer sentiment about your business, and lets you set goals to improve your customer service every quarter.
6) What could we do to become your favorite company to do business with?
This question is less about products, and more about experience.
Think about your absolute favorite companies to do business with. Why do you love them so much?
Chances are, the quality of their product is only part of the equation. You can probably think of other small touches (like the personality in the emails they send, or the handwritten notes you get from around the holidays, or the speed of their support response time) that truly make the experience great.
Asking this question will let your customers help you become that business for them.
7) How are things going otherwise?
Most customer issues go unreported.
In fact, for every one customer complaint online, there is usually 26 other customers who feel the same way but don’t say anything.
When a customer comes to you with a simple request, answering it and then asking this question can help you unearth whatever else you could be doing to turn them into a loyal customer for life.
Your Customers Aren’t Telling You Everything
Most of the time, your customers aren’t telling you everything. That’s why it’s so important to ask.
It’s easy to get into the habit of simply firing off answers as we power through our bloated support inboxes, but that only accomplishes half of the battle when it comes to creating deep relationships with our customers.
Ask questions. Dig deeper. Learn what you can do to be truly great. And then do it.