The Right Questions to Ask Customers
June 20, 2019 | Andrea Olson
There are quite a few best practices out there to gain customer feedback to help improve your organization's performance and growth. Some of the recommendations for questions to ask customers to gain insight (via places like Google) have included:
Is our product/service no longer useful to you?
Did the price of our product/service cause you to leave?
Have you decided to test out a competitor?
What would you like to see changed?
What would you say about your experience?
While all interesting, they are fairly useless. There's a good reason for this–they are binary questions. Each can be answered with a Yes or a No, or a singular comment. In addition, there's little to no context of the WHY. And the "why" is the most important thing to know.
Take, for example, the question of "is our product/service no longer useful to you"? Many organizations will take questions like this through a broad sweeping online survey, with a "yes/no" radio option and an "open-ended" text box to gather more detailed input. The challenge is that to get to the root of the "why" requires a conversation–a skilled interviewer and facilitator that can help the customer effectively articulate their reasons for their perceptions and actions.
It might be simple as the product or service is something they now do in-house, or that they don't use the item anymore due to operational changes. Yet, a trained interviewer will have the ability to ask a series of questions that will lead to more detail, identifying not only potential issues and problems which led to the change, but also opportunities that might be available to create new offerings, change offerings or identify a whole new product or service line.
When we put the onus on the customer to think through their decision process on their own, without investing the time to have an intimate conversation about the "why" behind the decision, we leave an inordinate amount of opportunity on the table. This hands-on engagement with customers is critical–it allows your organization to understand the nuances and unique challenges your customers have, that your competitors are not exploring.
Once we start to understand that "customer feedback" can't simply be an automated process–that it requires face time with customers, often in their own environments, to gain true insights into the "why" behind their behaviors and decisions, only then will we capture the input necessary to change our organizational competitiveness.