We believe that among all the question types at our disposal, the open-ended question is the most valuable in uncovering customer’s needs (hence, the king of all questions). When you ask a great open-ended question (one that comes out naturally, and is relevant to the given discussion), it allows your customer to take control and share what is most important to him/her. Once you ask that open-ended question, it allows the customer to drive the conversation which provides us with an opportunity to uncover potential wants and needs of our customer. Open-ended questions take the most work and creativity to come up with and demand you listen completely as the speaker will be doing a lot of talking. But you will gather lots of valuable information as a result.
Frontline employees need to be proactive and deliberate when asking open-ended questions. Some great examples of open-ended questions would be "tell me more about?" or "what do you think about that product? Both examples are open-ended, as they aren’t answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response. However, if you want to get the most out of asking questions, you must be proactive in the creation and delivery of them.
The start of any interaction with a customer should always begin with an open-ended question because it quickly helps to build rapport. Even if it’s as simple as the examples given above, you can uncover far more needs as opposed to simply asking, “Can I help you”. Starting with an open-ended question also sets the tone and encourages the customer to talk about themselves and what’s important to him/her. Once again, they will be driving the conversation. Open-ended questions most often start with who, what, when, where, how, why, and tell me about. Take time to create some great open-ended questions to allow the customer to do the majority of talking so you can actively listen to identify possible product or service solutions.
It has been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. The same can be said regarding asking open-ended questions without feeling as if you’re disrespectfully prying into your customer’s life. It all begins with building a trusting relationship through taking the time to listen and genuinely respond by delivering “above and beyond” service. When you take the time to give the customer reason to look to you as a trusted advisor who is looking out for his/her best interests, asking relevant and meaningful open-ended questions becomes second nature.
Create a “Go-To” list
Striking up a conversation through asking strategic and relevant open-ended questions doesn’t come naturally to everyone. That is why it is a great idea to pull your team together, focus on a few key products/services and create a list of open-ended questions that are designed to get the customer talking. For example, if there is a push to refer more car loans you may want to ask a question regarding the traffic, if you’re in an area that experiences a lot of traffic, to hopefully steer the conversation in the automotive arena. One example could be: “How’s the traffic looking out there?” When your employees have a list of “Go-To” questions, it takes a lot of anxiety out of the equation and boosts confidence. It also provides a great professional development opportunity for your staff members as they help in the creation of the questions, thus internalizing product knowledge in the process.
Timing is Everything
A critical key to uncovering needs, is making each customer feel welcome and comfortable. In addition, each interaction should be personalized and genuine to build long-lasting relationships. This will certainly strenghten customer loyalty and provide incredible word-of-mouth advertising for you and your organization. That is why you’re not going to use an open-ended question with every question you ask. The key is to always be thinking of ways that you can creatively ask open-ended questions to reveal the true needs that your customer has. Just as you wouldn’t ask all “yes-no” questions, asking all open-ended questions would make for an unnatural and robotic experience for the customer.
Gaining the trust and respect of customers all starts with the way in which we communicate with them. Providing distinguished service and making successful product referrals begins with skillfully uncovering the expressed and unexpressed needs of your customers. We can help your team strengthen customer loyalty and increase product referrals through our onsite sales and service training. To find out how, contact us today!