I love the old saying “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason” this definitely means that we should listen twice as much as we speak. Whenever I happen to be consulting with companies that are struggling to meet, let alone exceed customer expectations, I usually realize that they have not been applying this folksy wisdom to offer the best customer experience possible.
These companies are often staffed and headed by super-smart professionals; people who are probably the finest in their respective fields. Nonetheless, expertise is only one of the many attributes needed in the growth of loyal, satisfied customers. Subject matter experts always forget to recognize the fact that a successful business is supposed to focus on customer satisfaction rather than the prestige and expertise of the owner.
How then do you know that you are listening enough and picking up the right information? One way to find out is by learning to ask the right questions.
- What brings you in today? Irrespective of your industry, by simply asking your customers why they visited your website, walked through your door, or picked up the phone can go a long way to help you understand even the minimum you ought to deliver.
- How can I help you? Sometimes, especially in retail—customers can always be cautious about getting the hard sell. They want to have that feeling of able to wander around a store, exploring at their own pace.
By simply asking the obvious question, you can easily sort out which customers are in need of immediate assistance and which customers are satisfied shopping at their own pace. It would be very bad for a customer to feel ignored because every customer should get a smile and an offer of assistance.
Although no one runs a trouble-free company, an essential way of distinguishing yourself and the level of your customer service is by ensuring that you resolve problems effectively.
- How can I do better? Considering the rate of competition in virtually every industry, simply meeting expectations is often not enough. Offering your customers more service and value beyond their expectation can help you earn loyal customers. Whenever customers are being asked for advice, it is to open up a dialogue that is able to help the business owner serve them well in the future. In a situation whereby customers feel involved and invested in your company, they are more likely to want to see you succeed.
- What’s important to you? Every entrepreneur surely wants to make their clients happy. The challenge is always about having knowledge of what really matters to them at the end of the day.
An accountant friend of mine used to throw a lavish holiday party every year for her customers. She pulled out all the stops, poured high-end champagne and served fancy hors d’oeuvres. In a passing conversation with a client, she learned that clients felt obligated to attend, and the timing —close to the stressful holidays—made the event more of a chore than a pleasure. She switched things up and now hosts a backyard summer barbecue that’s the hit of the year. Once she figured out what mattered to her customers, she hit it out of the park.
- What’s not important to you? Another friend of mine used to offer his clients discounts if they referred friends and family. When he asked about the effectiveness of his referral program, he learned that the discount didn’t really factor in the decision to refer. Now he offers other perks, improving his profit margin. (Pro tip: If the price does not seem to be the factor, there is no need reducing it!)
- If you owned this company, what would you do differently? A look at the entire question on the list, I have gotten to realize that this particular question is most likely to get surprisingly honest responses. Asking this question is simply the same as wanting to know what other things you must do to satisfy your clients, although in an assumed manner. It is obvious that you would not want to overlook your customers as resources for fresh insight.
- Why are you leaving? Every business loses clients over the years, this is an unavoidable occurrence. However, while this is unavoidable, you can learn from it.
If the cause of their leaving is as a result of price, or a close relative just opened the same sort of business, then there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. But if this is happening as a result of you not being able to meet expectations, you need to know.
- Have we resolved your problems? No one runs a trouble-free company; notwithstanding, you can possibly distinguish yourself and the level of your customer service by ensuring that problems are resolved effectively.
If a client happens to walk away with the feeling that you have been able to take their gripes seriously and have always tried to do things right, they may be more likely to return.
- How did you hear about us? It might be that you are trying to keep track on the effectiveness of your marketing or you are probably making a mental list of clients to thank for referrals, taking out the time to ask clients about how they were able to find you can assist you in gathering information that can be very useful along the line.
- How likely are you to refer a friend to us? This question applies in two different ways. First, this might be able to let you identify customers who are not completely pleased with your service.
Second, it deposits a sort of obligation in the mind of your client. Initially, they may not have thought about your need for new business. But you bringing up the topic is most likely to make them realize they have a list of people you could serve. Don’t ever hesitate to ask clients for referrals!
Above all, the need for you to communicate with your customers is the most important thing in a business. The ability to dialogue with customers can help provide insight into diverse issues and is able to greatly improve the level and consistency of your customer experience.