Skillful outcome questions enable an individual to focus on the way the conversation is headed. The skill lies getting the customer to reveal what they want and then provide a solution to their problem.
There is a difference between open questions and closed questions.
A close-ended question is one that can generally be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” An example might be: “Did you like our product?” The customer can respond with a simple “yes” or “no.” If you are lucky, you might even get an answer with more than one word, such as “it’s OK.”
Open ended questions, on the other hand, require more thought. Asking open-ended questions is a skill that is learned by interviewers, teachers, journalists, and anyone who requires more than a one-word response to a question.
An open ended question, on the other hand, may be something like: “Tell me what you liked about this product?” The individual must now think about the product. What does he like and not like about it? The answer will provide much more information.
Negative questions can be just as bad as closed-end questions. An example might be: “What’s the problem with this product?”
The customer is now forced to find a problem.
The result will likely be a long, rambling answer, often with the individual repeating the same points over and over again.
A conversation like this is not going to help you move forward to a solution. In fact, you can find yourself in a conversation that is difficult to navigate and almost impossible to move forward.
Outcome questions, however, are not negative and take open ended questions still a step farther. They do this by drawing out the customer’s desired ending.
So when asking outcome questions, the important thing is to focus on the final result.
Here’s an example of an outcome question: “What would you like us to do?”
Now you have changed the focus from the past, or what they didn’t like, to the future — what result do they want?
Gaining this information puts the customer service representative in a much better position by making it simpler to provide assistance. Of course not every problem may be solved with a single phone call or email. But with the information gained from the outcome question, they have the necessary information to handle the problem. They now know what the customer wants and can give them the solution they’re seeking.
In good customer service coaching classes, role playing is used to act out both scenarios. The trainer will choose two of the trainees and assign them each a role. One trainee will play the role of the customer with a complaint; the second will play the role of the customer service representative.
In the first scenario the customer service representative will ask closed ended and negative questions. Those taking the class should be permitted to make comments (within reason) and simply go down the natural path the conversation will take them. You will see how quickly they learn where negative questions take them!
Now, repeat the exercise, only this time the customer service representative will ask effective outcome questions. Again, the benefit of asking the right outcome questions will become immediately apparent.
It is often noted, in fact, that during the first scenario the individual asking the negative questions will naturally switch to asking outcome questions. They’ll do this when they recognize the customer is rehashing the same complaint over and over and the conversation is going nowhere. As a result, they naturally start focusing on how to solve the problem.
All of those attending the class will quickly learn when a skilled customer service rep asks outcome questions right from the start, they will get their desired results much faster.
Try these role playing exercises. They are an excellent tool, especially in making training videos. You will find the exercise is an excellent teaching tool that is also a lot of fun, in addition to role playing exercises you can also call in the experts, companies like http://www.capeconsulting.com can help you reach your goals.
Remember, no matter how serious the problem, there is always a happy ending. The important thing is that each customer service representative be properly taught how to focus the conversation away from past problems and on to future solution. This is done by mastering the skill of asking effective outcome questions.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Amy Rice enjoys writing about a range of subjects, when not writing I spend time with my daughter, visit the cinema and play adventure golf