How To Gain Control Of Every Difficult Conversation

Customer Service Think Tank hosted by DellKnowing how to ask good outcome questions is as much an art as it is a science. It involves redirecting a conversation towards a solution and away from the complaint.These types of questions allow the individual to take control of the discussion, they are cleverly thought out questions,political leaders use these techniques all the time.  Hopefully, the response will contain information that leads to more harmonious and clearer communication.

Open-Ended Vs. Closed-Ended Questions

  • One important skill that teachers, interviewers, journalists and anyone else trying to elicit a detailed answer from a subject, need to learn is how to ask open-ended questions.
  • Close-ended questions only require a yes or no answer. Open-ended questions, on the other other hand, can not be answered with one word, but instead require more thought.

Close-Ended Question Example: “Do you like our product?” This kind of question enables a customer to give a “yes,” “no” or “it is alright” response. Open-Ended Question Example: “What are some of the things about thisproduct that you enjoy?” This kind of question causes the customer to have to think about what he or she likes about the product, and provide a more detailed response, this type of question will also have your customer believe you are genuinely interested, care, and want to help deliver the best outcome. The premise is taken even further with outcome questions. Here you are trying to elicit a desired outcome to a situation.  You already know that closed-ended questions are not the best questions to ask. However, another form of questioning that can be nearly as bad are negative questions. Negative Question Example: “What is the problem?” This type of question will usually result in getting a rambling and long answer, detailing everything that has gone wrong. The person will typically repeat the same things over and over but in random order. This can be useful for finding out what has happened. You can also find out what clients are unhappy about. However, it will not be helpful in terms of moving forward. In the worst case scenario, you get trapped in a conversation that can be hard to escape from. It can also be difficult to move on from. Focus on Results Outcome Question Example: “What would you like us to do moving forward” The focus is now switched from what has already occurred to what your customer wants to have happen in the future. This situation is a stronger position to be in. Customer service representatives will find it easier to provide good responses to customers. They still may not be able to resolve the customer’s issue right on the spot. However, they can now take the information and provide reassurance that they will do whatever they can to ensure that the result the customer wants does materialise. Role-Play The Two Scenarios Acting out both scenarios is a great exercise to perform as part of your customer service training. The trainer can pair class members, with each one of the trainees being given a specific role. For the first scenario, one student will be the customer who has a complaint, while the other student will be in the role of customer service representative, who asks only negative questions. In the second scenario, the customer will have the same role, while the customer service representative will this time ask outcome questions instead. Within your structured setting,  and allow the discussion to develop from there. You may discover that the person asking negative questions will naturally switch to outcome questions eventually. The reason this happens is because they come to the realization that the other way allows the customer to continue repeating the same thing over and over again. Ultimately they change courses and start to focus on moving towards a resolution.

However, customer service representatives who ask outcome question initially will of course achieve the desired result a lot quicker.

This type of assignment is excellent, if you plan to make a video as part of your customer service training. You may need to do some editing, however, the material that comes from these types of exercises are a lot of fun. They provide great examples of all the many benefits that outcome questions bring.

The Happy Ending

There is always an ending that is preferred, no matter how bad a problem is, or what the customer’s position is. One important skill that needs to be covered in training your customer service representatives, is teaching your staff how to move conversations away from things that have gone wrong. They should move the conversation instead to focus on solving the problem.  Learning the above skill is not easy, you need to think on your feet and stay ahead of ‘the game’,  keep practicing and eventually you will handle each and every difficult conversation with ease, whilst keeping your customer happy.

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Amy Rice writes for Cape Consulting , when not writing, I enjoy spending quality time with my Daughte, lifting free weights at the gym, gardening and walking.

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