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Questioning Skills for Call Center Agents

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  • 0:04 Questioning Skills for…
  • 1:37 Formulating Questions…
  • 2:54 Open- vs. Closed-Ended…
  • 3:41 Probing & Verification…
  • 4:23 Leading Questions
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

The question is: Do you know how to ask the question? In this lesson, we'll tackle questioning skills for call center agents, including how to ask questions and the types of questions that fit best in different situations.

Questioning Skills for Call Agents

Did you know there's a right and wrong way to ask a question? Think about this scenario: You know that one of your kids tracked dirt all over your white carpet. Which question is likely to get you the answer you're after:

  • ''Did one of you track in this dirt from outside?'' (Of course they did. You already know that.)
  • ''Which one of you tracked in this dirt from outside?'' (This question will identify the culprit.)

See the difference in these questions? One is closed-ended (essentially a dead-end) and one is open-ended (to get you results). We'll get into these types of questions later. Right now, we need to talk more about how to develop the art of asking the right question at the right time.

It's true. It's not enough to know the types of questions to ask, but how to go about it. Asking the right question at the right time for the customer can be the difference between solving a problem, making a sale, or satisfying a request. Asking the right question at the right time for the customer means that you're attuned to what the caller is trying to accomplish by calling you. Quite simply, it doesn't start with questioning at all, but rather another important skill: listening.

Active listening, in fact, the type of listening that is focused, attentive, and undistracted, is the best ground from which to start a questioning journey. By listening to your customer's initial question and listening to their follow-up answers, you can not only figure out the best questions you need to ask, but solve a problem along the way.

Formulating Questions Effectively

One of the easiest tools for the effective formation of questions in call centers is to think of them in a sort of funnel. This method allows you to ask questions in a logical sequence. The widest part of the funnel, at the top, is where you'd use open-ended questions. As the neck of the funnel narrows, so too should the questions, which should become more focused (such as probing questions) to get to the heart of the issue.

With a plan for asking questions based on the funnel, the next steps are easy:

  1. Use verbal cues, such as ''I see,'' ''I understand,'' and ''continue'', to show customers you're listening.
  2. Demonstrate that you understand customers' answers by repeating some of their wording back to them, such as ''So, what you're saying is that your television is making a whirring sound?''
  3. Continue asking questions as appropriate: ''What is on the picture of your television when it makes this noise?''
  4. Summarize the phone call before providing a solution. This gives the caller the confidence that you've heard everything while offering an opportunity to contribute anything they might've left out.

So, now that you know how to ask a question, what types of questions will get you the answers you need? Let's look at a few.

Open- vs. Close-Ended Question

We've mentioned open-ended questions a couple of times already, but now it's time to define it. Open-ended questions encourage a caller to open up about their problem or concern. These types of questions require more than a ''yes'' or ''no'' answer. For example:

  • What do you like most about our product?
  • Why do you need to activate your warranty coverage?
  • What other brands did you consider when researching our services?

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