There are No Dumb Questions

By John Castaldi

There are No Dumb Questions image questionmarks

On a recent flight I shared with my seat mate what I do – conduct workshops on customer communications and management skills. She then asked “How come trainers always say ‘good question’?” (Later I will share my reply to her.)

In the training world, all questions may be “good”. Yet, in the world of inside sales, call centers and technical support, I doubt if this is true. More likely, outside of the classroom, there are probably bad questions, or perhaps more politely stated, some better questions than others.

Take inside sales at a cell phone company; “Are you interested in reducing your monthly fees?” might not be the best question to ask. Perhaps a better question: “What do you use your cell phone for?” For call center agents to grill the customer and slaughter the customer experience, use rapid-fire closed questions. To uncover sales opportunities and drive a positive customer experience, improve your chances with an emphasis on open and also follow-up questions.

We know the difference between closed questions that trigger a yes-no answer, and an open question that may reveal a sales opportunity. Yet, I have noticed, there can be gap between knowing something and actually routinely applying that knowledge. (I for one can be guilty here.) Specifically, we know the value of open, probing questions, and we still fall into a track of repeated closed questions. A customer call should be a conversation, not an interrogation.

Likewise, in customer service, call centers and technical support centers, not all questions are good. You could ask the customer “what is the problem?” or “what is the system/product/software doing/not doing?” This may yield some interesting information. Building on this in our training programs, we recommend adding powerful, open questions:

  • What else are you noticing?
  • What changes were made to your system/network/software/hardware?

    (My favorite, especially if it was once working, and is now not.)

While the quality of questions is so important, so is the timing. A best tele