“I think I have it covered”, was my blithe reply.
A few minutes later I was back at the front of the store, on my way out, obviously empty handed. Same woman, same position. “Did you find everything ok sir?”
“Why yes, yes I did. Thank-you”
You see, I had only stopped in there because I really, REALLY had to pee. So, in the end, I didn’t need help finding the bathroom and I DID find it, just fine. The trouble was the nice young lady at the front had politely asked the wrong questions.
Allow me to suggest four questions that are the RIGHT questions. You might not ask these exactly as phrased but these are the question you want to have answered by your customers:
1. What are you trying to accomplish?
I walked into Home Depot this afternoon looking for a couple parts to allow me to use my compressor to blow out our sprinklers. Spring is NOT the time to be blowing out the sprinklers but we had tried to start ours up and run into a couple problems so we thought we might blow them out and start from scratch.
“What are you looking for?” Gets the answer that I am looking for parts. You, as the Home Depot guy, will be able to help me find parts.
“What are you trying to accomplish” Gets an entirely different, much more detailed answer. Home Depot guy now has a chance to provide real service in helping me find the right solution to the right problem.
Customers do this all the time. They come up with a solution in their head and ask for the parts to create THAT solution. “I need a button here” or “I need a widget that does x”. When you ask them what they’re trying to accomplish it opens up whole new avenues for potentially serving them well and providing value.
2. What else can we help you solve?
This again is a subtle twist on the old “Can we help you find anything else?”
Last summer I was in a running store getting a new pair of shoes. As I was getting my shoes and a couple packs of gel I looked around to see if they had any race belts. They didn’t. No biggie. Didn’t really think they would.
“Can we help you find anything else? ” No, I can see the entire store from here and you don’t have what I’m looking for.
“Can we help you solve anything else? ” Well, I still need a race belt. And right THERE you have a chance to direct me to someplace that carries them thus providing service that will make me want to bring my business back again.
3. How are we doing?
I don’t mean the ol’ chummy, “Hey buddy how we doin’?” I mean “How are we doing at meeting your needs?”
Restaurants are the classic example of coming close on this one. What you typically get is “How is everything tasting this evening?” Well, the food may taste fine but it may have taken WAY to long to get to the table or the service may be sloppy in general or the drink menu may be too limiting, any one of those things may outweigh the taste of the food in terms of whether I’ll be back.
But ask “How are we doing?” and all of those issues are in play. WARNING: Don’t ask this one unless you’re ready to hear the answer.
4. How can we get in touch with you?
You may have to give something in return for a customer’s contact information, newsletter, white paper, coupons, but it is worth it because it gives you the chance to maintain the connection that occurs from the first transaction. You know, the whole bird in the hand worth two in the bush thing…
If a customers is looking to buy from you they’re looking to solve a problem or meet a need. Whether you’re trying to get them to buy shoes, schedule lawn care, or attend your church you need to know what need they’re looking to have met. You need to know if you can help beyond that one need. You need to know how you’re doing at meetings those needs. And you need to know how to get in touch with them again.
What are some other examples of the wrong questions that businesses ask?