On a recent flight I shared with my seat mate what I do – conduct workshops on customer communications and management skills. She then asked “How come trainers always say ‘good question’?” (Later I will share my reply to her.)

In the training world, all questions may be “good”. Yet, in the world of inside sales, call centers and technical support, I doubt if this is true. More likely, outside of the classroom, there are probably bad questions, or perhaps more politely stated, some better questions than others.

Take inside sales at a cell phone company; “Are you interested in reducing your monthly fees?” might not be the best question to ask. Perhaps a better question: “What do you use your cell phone for?” For call center agents to grill the customer and slaughter the customer experience, use rapid-fire closed questions. To uncover sales opportunities and drive a positive customer experience, improve your chances with an emphasis on open and also follow-up questions.

We know the difference between closed questions that trigger a yes-no answer, and an open question that may reveal a sales opportunity. Yet, I have noticed, there can be gap between knowing something and actually routinely applying that knowledge. (I for one can be guilty here.) Specifically, we know the value of open, probing questions, and we still fall into a track of repeated closed questions. A customer call should be a conversation, not an interrogation.

Likewise, in customer service, call centers and technical support centers, not all questions are good. You could ask the customer “what is the problem?” or “what is the system/product/software doing/not doing?” This may yield some interesting information. Building on this in our training programs, we recommend adding powerful, open questions:

  • What else are you noticing?
  • What changes were made to your system/network/software/hardware? (My favorite, especially if it was once working, and is now not.)

While the quality of questions is so important, so is the timing. A best tele­sales train­ing prac­tice tip to keep in mind is mak­ing sure your sales team under­stands the appro­pri­ate con­text for ask­ing impor­tant ques­tions.

From another industry, a recent study revealed that 70% of all medical diagnoses are based on responses from the patient. Not to discount the value of tests, this surprised me. And made me wonder, how important might it be for your doctor to ask good questions.

Asking better questions has a two-fold benefit: For the customer, it increases their confidence that the person they are talking with is competent. For the inside sales rep, asking better questions will reveal sales opportunities sooner. And for those in technical support, smart questioning will improve both first call resolution and customer satisfaction.

Back to my flight friend who asked “How come trainers always say ‘good question’?”

After a pensive pause, I replied ….. “Good question.”