What Are Different Types of Questioning Techniques?
Why are questions asked?
Questioning is a natural behaviour and it starts from a very early age when we are children and continues till the end. We ask questions, simply because we need answers. Questions are asked for various reasons in various situations when one is searching for solutions, answers, information etc. They are basic tools that help humans grow and develop. Questions can be asked to gain knowledge, to clarify doubts, to know the reality or truth behind an incident, out of curiosity, to make complicated issues simpler, to resolve issues, to start a conversation, to share ideas, to make a plan, etc. Children persistently ask a lot of questions all the time, and they learn and increase their knowledge that way.
There is an old English Proverb, “He that nothing questions, nothing learns”.
Note: As a little note, this hub can be used as reference for people who are working towards any qualifications in customer service and mostly NVQ Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma or certificate in Customer Services. This can be used as reference for the unit below:
Unit A3: Communicate effectively with customers
How do you use questions to check what customers are telling you?
People who work in customer services, medical services, schools, legal services, social services and in almost all services need to have good questioning skills. 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 necessary. Questioning skills help you gather more quality information, help you learn a lot by questioning, helps others learn, helps build better relationships and helps to manage problems and people effectively
There are many types of questions that can be used for questioning techniques. A few basic ones that are important are listed below.
- Open questions
- Closed questions
- Funnel questions
- Probing questions
- Leading questions
- Rhetorical questions
One should know all the different types of questions, when to use which type of questions and how to combine the different techniques to arrive at the best decision or result.
10 Tips for Effective Questioning
Open questions - Open questions ask for elaborate / explanatory answers and they begin with what, why, how, describe, explain, where, which, when etc. It can be questions asking someone to explain what happened at a situation or place, asking why it happened, asking for details of an incident, history of some happenings, explanation about their circumstances, explanation of needs, thoughts about something, ideas and feedback. Open questions help with a two way conversation and builds up an interest in the conversation. Some examples are
- What happened at the conference today?
- Could you please describe your needs and current circumstances?
- 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. They are usually asked to test if someone has understood certain policies, procedures, rules, regulations, explanations, discussions, lectures etc. Closed questions are also asked for agreements or disagreements, asking for how they feel, to be specific, for affirmation, etc. It is best not to ask closed questions when a conversation is going on smoothly as it can bring an end to the conversation and you might get into the risk of losing required information. Some of the words used in closed questions are, are, do, did, could, should etc. Some examples of closed questions are
- Will I get a response by tomorrow?
- Do we agree on this decision?
- Are you happy with the services that we provide?
- Which is your hometown?
- What do you do for a living?
Funnel questions – Just imagine the shape of a funnel while using these type of questions. A funnel has a wide mouth and gradually narrows at the bottom. Similarly, 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. This type of questioning technique is used by investigators, researchers and detectives. In cases where investigations are involved, these types of questions can be used to gather information and then to narrow down to arrive at a decision. You can use a lot of closed questions at the start and then widen on to asking open questions thereby making the people feel comfortable answering your questions. An example can be,
- When was the call made?
- Do you know the name of the person whom you spoke to?
- What sort of behaviour did they exhibit?
- What was your call about?
- What questions did you ask?
- What was the response?
- Did they mention anything specific?
- Did they have a specific accent?
- How will you describe their approach?
Probing questions or Trigger questions – Probing questions are used to gather more details and information. These are asked to clarify doubts or misunderstandings. These questions will help you pull out information from people who are hiding information or avoiding from telling you something. Some examples are
- What exactly is the current situation?
- Who exactly is requiring these details?
- When do you need these data by?
- How do you know that XYZ was involved?
- What is exactly this information needed for?
- Where exactly will you be using this?
- What types of products do you need, how and where will you be using them?
- Can you be more specific?
Leading questions or Reflective questions – Leading questions are used to lead the person whom you are talking to. This leads the speaker to give you answers, while they know that you are giving them a choice. One has to be careful not to be manipulative while using leading questions. Some examples are
- Well, I think this product looks more suitable for your needs, what do you think?
- What would you prefer, A or B, as they both have similar features?
Rhetorical questions – Rhetorical questions are asked to keep people and audience engaged. It also helps people think, be creative and come up with ideas. Some examples are
- Isn’t this a fantastic offer?
- Isn’t this work perfect?
- Don’t you like the way this package is set up?
Asking Powerful Questions
Clarifying questions - Clarifying questions are used to verify information. Once the discussion or talk is over, you finalise things to confirm if that was what was discussed.
- Just to confirm, you have taken land line unlimited broadband and television package. Is that correct?
- Before we finish, let me go through this. You need a carer to call you at lunch time and dinner, 30 minutes each. Is that correct?
- Am I right in confirming that the delivery will be in 3 days’ time?
- Am I right in believing that you all understand that tomorrow is the last day for submitting your paperwork?
Tony Robbins quotes, “Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers”.
Questioning techniques are again used in all walks of life, at work, at home, among friends and in other relationships too. This is one of the basic principles of communication. To effectively ask questions you need to listen effectively so that you are able to formulate the next question. Always use positive words and motivate the questioned person to answer effectively. Maintain confidence, so that the customer or client or anyone else who is talking trusts you to give an answer. Always ask relevant questions and never random questions as this will be totally out of the subject that is being discussed. By understanding and improving your questioning skills, you can improve the way in which you communicate with people and your interpersonal skills.