Support Operations

Melissa Kovacevic
The Lost Art of Asking Great Questions
Written by Melissa Kovacevic Mar 01, 2012

When we call for support or service, we shouldn’t have to bite our tongues, but we often do because we are receiving more information than we’re giving. Have you ever felt—or said—“But you’re not listening!” Here are Melissa Kovacevic’s thoughts on getting information by asking great questions. The post is used by permission and originally appeared here. You can follow Melissa on Twitter at @MKCallConsult. —Roy Atkinson

When I monitor calls at a call center, I frequently hear a lot of talking going on and not so much listening. The talking is being done by a customer service, inside sales, or tech support agent who is so focused on delivering their message that the only time the customer or prospect can interject is when the agent comes up for air. There seems to be such a rush to talk “at” the caller instead of “with” the caller.

If we are doing all of the talking, how are we learning what the customer thinks, needs, and wants?

This is where a lot of “assuming” comes in, and I have had agents defend their excessive talking by stating, “Well, I knew where they were going and I needed to get on the next call.” Wonder what metrics they are being measured and rewarded on?

When a service or tech support agent is not listening, a lot of problems can happen, but the most serious one is that the need is not met, the problem is not correctly solved, and the customer or prospect has to call back. This adds to our call volume and creates an upset caller. Now, we not only have to solve the problem the right way, we also have to defuse the caller.

When a new sales agent talks incessantly on a call, it is often because they are avoiding the often inevitable “no” or other objections. If they are experienced, they have a bad skill that has become a habit, or they feel they must overwhelm the caller with product details and features to make them see how wonderful the product itself is rather than discovering how it fits what the caller truly needs.

A lot of monitoring and coaching centers on two main areas: soft skills (how they treat the caller) and product/technical knowledge. The skill of asking great questions is often lost in the coaching process, with a myriad of skills being scored. Yet, when I monitor, I generally find that seven out of ten agents are not asking great questions to truly assist the caller.

Simply stated, when we ask questions, we can listen. When we listen, we hear clues that may not be apparent if we hadn’t asked those great questions. We also have a chance to hear the caller’s communication style (bottom line? detailed?  friendly?) and get in sync with that style.

Next time you monitor calls or observe in-person interactions, be sure to listen for how much time your agents spend talking versus  how much time their customers or prospects speak. If your agent is doing all of the talking, it’s time to coach on how to ask the best questions. And be sure your metrics and goals allow for your agents to have this dialogue so calls aren’t rushed. Calls may be a bit longer, but you’ll see the results in increased sales and improved customer experience.

Leave a Comment
We value your feedback. To leave a comment, please log in or create an account.