Livingsta shares her positive experience in business administration, customer service and education.
Communicating Effectively With Customers
Clarifying communications is an important aspect of customer service. When talking to customers, different questioning techniques need to be used to check and make sure that you understand what customers are telling you. In this process, the customer service advisor should be able to differentiate between positive and negative body language.
Summarising the contents of the communication, in the end, will help with arriving at an outcome or solution to the discussion. Also, a service person needs to speak clearly in simple language with the customer.
How Do You Use Questions to Check What Customers Are Telling You?
In customer service, just being a good listener is not enough, you also need to know to ask the right questions to get as much details or information as possible as it is necessary to do so. Questioning skills help you gather more quality information, you learn a lot by questioning, helps others learn, helps build better relationships and helps to manage problems and people effectively.
The Types of Questions
There are many different types of questions.
- Open questions
- Closed questions
- Funnel questions
- Probing questions
- Leading questions
- Rhetorical questions
Open questions - elaborate / explanatory answers are asked and they begin with what, why, how, describe, explain etc. These are questions that are asked to explain what happened at a situation or place. Some examples are
- What happened at the meeting?
- Describe your circumstances in more detail
- What do you think about this conclusion / discussion?
- Who were present at this incident?
- How did you arrive at this conclusion?
Closed question – Closed Questions have very short answers like “yes” or “no” or answers with a word or two. These are used to test if someone has understood information.
Funnel questions – You need to think about the funnel shape while using these types of questions. You start with a lot of general questions on a situation or incident and then narrow it down to one point to arrive at a conclusion.
Probing questions – Probing questions are used to gather more details and information. These are asked to clarify doubts or misunderstandings.
Leading questions – Leading questions are used to lead the person to whom you are talking to.
Rhetorical questions – Rhetorical questions are asked to keep people and audience engaged.
Techniques for Asking Questions
Questioning techniques are a very important way of communication and it helps us gain more information and decide on a proper outcome. When dealing with customers, I ask open and closed questions and also use probing questions to gather as much information to decide on their needs and to assess their needs.
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I give customers choices and respect their opinions, that way it helps me to build good relationships with customers. I also use probing questions to clarify my doubts and not to make wrong decisions or conclusions. Funnel questions can be used to calm down a situation. When a customer is angry or upset, asking them supportive questions regarding that situation will help them to not feel bad or angry about the situation and co-operate to work towards a conclusion.
I use questions to ask for people’s opinions rather than persuading them to accept what I have decided. This also helps in team building and customer relationships. In order for me to ask good questions, I need to be an active listener. Questioning makes the speaker or customer feel that we really care and have acknowledged their concerns.
Describe the Difference Between Negative and Positive Language
Language is a very important and basic tool that everyone uses to communicate, either verbally or non-verbally (letters, emails, fax, etc.). Language reflects the mood and the attitude of the person who is trying to convey the message. So it is very important to use the correct language and correct tones in your language while communicating at different levels and situations.
There are two types of languages:
- Positive language
- Negative language
Positive language is the most effective type of language as it is encouraging, constructive and reduces conflicts and confrontations. Positive language tells people positively what can be done and provides them with options to choose from to rectify errors. It helps people and gives them suggestions and provides options for improvements.
Negative language is confrontational, destructive and is very discouraging, leading to adverse outcomes. It tells people negatively what cannot be done, and it sounds like blame and uses negative words like, cannot, will not, unable, regret, neglected, insufficient, etc. It just tells people what cannot be done and does not provide any options for improvement or does not talk about any positive actions.
In order for communication to be effective one needs to understand the benefits of positive language, know how to use them and implement in their day-to-day life. Even negative information can be communicated in positive language. That will make a huge difference to the services and image of the organisation.
How Do You Summarise the Content of a Discussion and Outcome With Customers?
A summary is a sum of all the key information discussed in a conversation and it has to be sensible/meaningful. It should not comment on the members of the discussion but focus on the information or important points discussed.
In order to summarise content of a discussion, one needs to have good listening skills, in other words, one has to be an active listener. If you have doubts on any areas of discussion, you can clarify with the members present in order to avoid errors and wrong information being summarised. You need to use the correct formats for summarising discussions and outcomes. Write it down knowing the purpose, what the benefits are, who will benefit and in what way they will benefit.
If the discussion is a long one, always take notes so that you do not miss out on any key information. Summarising a discussion helps stop confusion over what was discussed, what was agreed, what has to be followed up, and what the other steps are in the discussion. It helps people be confident that the discussion was clear, it makes sure that the discussion was understood by everyone present, it helps remind about contracts and agreements and also tells that the discussion has come to an end.
Summarising skill is very helpful when communicating with customers and partner companies. When it is a product query or service query from a customer, summarising helps you to check that you have all the relevant and required information to make a decision or to resolve an issue.
In short, a summary should have details of all the facts obtained from a person during the conversation, details of important information or advice given to that person and any agreements or contracts made or signed. A summary has to stick to the points and not deviate into unnecessary details.
Why Is It Important to Speak Clearly?
It is important to speak clearly so that the other person or the audience fully understand what you are talking, what you are offering them or what you are agreeing to. Speaking clearly in a polite and friendly manner will help people recommend you and your organisation to others. Speaking clearly also brings out your confidence and honesty and helps customers trust that you will help them.
Speaking clearly is part of customer service and if not done, there are high chances of losing customers. In order to avoid misunderstandings and understand dealings clearly, one has to speak clearly. Clear speaking also has a huge impact on relationships between colleagues in the team and customers with whom we interact on a day-to-day basis.
Try listening to your own voice using a voice recorder. When you listen to your own speech and voice, you will know what is wrong, what areas need improvement and rectify the errors. The following can be followed in order for your speech to be clear.
- Speak slowly
- Pause in between sentences
- Use proper grammar
- Use correct pronunciation and tone
- Speak with confidence
- Improve your vocabulary by reading
- Think before you speak
- Ask if that person understands what you say
- If they do not, rephrase
- Keep it simple avoiding technical terms
- Open your mouth and speak clearly
I hope that you found the information in this article useful. This is purely for reference purposes only. If you have any questions or wish to share your experience, please do so in the comment section below.
All the best!
More About Communicating With Customers
- How to Communicate With Customers: Listening and Body Language
Communication is a very important tool when it comes to customer service. It involves a lot of other skills and characteristics that a customer service advisor needs to focus on and adhere to.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.