Asking the Right Questions
You get the best information by asking the right kind of question. Open questions really do open the channel to communication, while closed questions will get you information that is quick and factual.
In this lesson,
you’ll look at the different aspects and uses of open and closed questions to help make your job a little easier.
Open Questions vs. Closed Questions
The CCA’s ability to ask the right question at the right time is as important as being a good listener. Often, your time will seem to be rushed, so it is important to have some questions ready that will help you through the call to serve your customers and clients.
Closed questions can be answered by either yes or no, or with a specific piece of data, such as your name, date of birth, occupation, etc. These questions restrict our responses and give us little opportunity to develop our thoughts. As a result, they require little effort and can even close down a conversation.
This type of question tends to get over-used, partially because they require very little effort on the questioner’s part. They are easy to phrase and we get quick answers. Unfortunately, such questions also can lead us to make assumptions that can be barriers to good communication.
Open questions, on the other hand, encourage people to talk. These questions are phrased so they cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Open questions often begin with a variation of the five W’s (who, what, when, where, why), or can ask “how.”
Questions are used to:
- Get information
- Focus conversations
- Solicit opinions
- Gain consensus
Closed questions begin the closing process. The unintentional use of a closed question can often be overcome by following it with a simple open question. For example:
- Q: “Do you feel that was the right thing to do?”
- A: “Yes, I do.”
- Q: “Can you help me understand why you feel that way?”
When we do not get enough information by using open-ended questions, we can use probes to expand the conversation.
Verbal and Nonverbal Probes
A probe will encourage your customer to add to their previous response. Verbal probes are often a single word or short phrase. Some examples are:
- “Tell me more about that.”
- “That’s interesting. Tell me more.”
- “Can you give me a specific example of what you mean?”
Nonverbal probes rely on your body language and gestures to get the same results as a verbal probe. Some examples are:
- Raising the eyebrows as if you are surprised
- Pursing the lips
There are many ways that you can use probing in your conversations. We’ve provided some techniques for you below.
- Ask an open question, such as:
“Can you describe that more clearly?”
“Would you give me a specific example of what you mean?”
“What do you think we should do?”
You’ll soon recognize that if you ask too many of these questions, your customer will feel like they are under interrogation, so use them carefully.
- Pause. Many of us feel uncomfortable when silence overtakes a conversation, and we will fill the silence by expanding on what was said previously.
- Use reflective or mirroring questions. For example, if the customer says “I just don’t feel that I am getting good value from this product,” you may respond by just reflecting back to them, “Value?” Then pause. Usually, the other person will provide you with an expanded answer without you asking more questions or interrogating. These kinds of statements also serve to focus or clarify and summarize without interrupting the flow of the conversation. They demonstrate your intent to understand the speaker’s thoughts and feelings.
- Paraphrase what has just been said in your own words. “So if I understand you correctly, you…” Using this technique shows that you want to understand your customer and that you want to be accurate. It also allows the sender to hear back what they have said from someone else’s point of view.
- Summary questions are a helpful way of probing and winding up the conversation at the same time. Here is an example: “You have tried returning the product at the store, you have called our representatives twice, and now you are trying for a third time before filing a complaint. Is that accurate?”