You’ve probably seen one of the latest Google Pixel 2 Commercials – “Questioning”. It starts with “When you change a period to a question mark, it changes everything”.
It seems pretty simple, but as the ad runs, you quickly notice the power of this seemingly small change.
It reminds you of some simple questions that changed business forever:
- Why should you be stuck without a bed if I’ve got an extra air mattress? (Airbnb)
- Why can’t a camera produce a photo immediately? (Polaroid)
- What if a video rental service was run like a health club? (Netflix)
- You have a big hit with the iPod, what else can you do? (Apple)
The list is endless, as many companies and even entire industries started with a curious person asking a simple yet thought provoking question.
But for some reason, asking questions doesn’t seem to get as much praise as giving answers. In school and the workplace, questions can be seen as challenging authority. They can be seen as a sign of weakness, something to avoid at all cost.
But, the fact of the matter is that we all need to brush up on our question asking skills.
And here’s why.
In CX, the bar is always moving. A brilliant answer today can become outdated by next year (or sooner!). So, you have to keep improving and innovating. And the speed of change means you have to do this more often. You are going to need more ideas, more creativity and more imagination than ever before.
While a statement sends a message of “this is the way things are”, a question can jump-start a conversation that others can contribute to and mine for new thinking and ideas.
Questions invite people to join you on a journey towards a new possibility.
When you ask more questions, you allow for more possibilities and engage more people. You increase your ability to reimagine and innovate, creating a more meaningful and engaging culture for your team and better solutions for your customers.
Here are some of the questions we use to help ensure our Customers First culture grows and evolves to meet the needs of the future.
In 2013, interest and enthusiasm were increasing for more and better insight into our largest customers (think large financial institutions, healthcare providers, global shippers, etc.), which represent the smallest segment of our business.
We were asked by our leaders to increase customer participation in our surveys and to increase survey frequency and reporting. However, with a small population, over-surveying can quickly become a problem and annoy and frustrate our customers.
We started to ask ourselves some questions we hadn’t asked before:
- Why can’t surveys be more like conversations?
- Why can’t a survey experience be something customers look forward to?
- Why can’t a survey experience build loyalty?
We ended up creating “check-in” calls – a new add to our feedback program.
They were less formal, much shorter and more conversational surveys. We shared what we had been working on and invited input on our progress. We asked what else was on their minds, so we weren’t missing anything important to them. We wrapped up with a handful of critical metric questions and shared our hope that they would continue to share their thoughts with us.
Customers asked to have colleagues added to the check-in list, and they asked when the next one was so they wouldn’t miss it.
Our participation rates tripled (even for our more traditional and longer surveys). Our list of people to talk to doubled. And we exceeded our reporting needs.
Faster isn’t always better. More or more often isn’t always better. But you don’t know if you don’t ask.
During one of our small business planning sessions some years ago we set some aggressive targets for ourselves – installation timeframes and windows, technical support ticket turnaround times, contract terms, new product information offers and communication, etc.
Then we went and asked our customers “What if we….?”
We shared our plans with them. It turned out that several of our ideas were going to be extremely complex and/or resource-heavy for us, and wouldn’t add any incremental value to them. We were able to re-allocate resources to the real heavy-hitters to move the needle on the experience faster.
We then baked in “what if?” logic into our loyalty research models and built our improvement plans around the results.
We saw some of our biggest improvement gains. Ever.
At one point we were reviewing some of our customer feedback related to the installation of new services. We asked small business customers – “When it comes to how long it takes for your new service to be installed, when does the clock start ticking and when does it stop?”
They told us the clock starts when they shake hands with the sales rep and stops when the service is up and running. That meant that the installation team was holding a challenging ‘time to install’ metric on their own when they could and should be expanding their improvement team to include others.
They started to ask “who can we work with to improve the experience?” instead of doing it all themselves. The team expanded to include Sales, Contracts, Order Entry etc.
Installation times were cut in half.
Taking the “who with?” a step further, in the last year one of our service organizations integrated several teams to create one new combined team to better support a critical component of the customer journey with end-to-end alignment.
So regularly on our radar is the “Who with?” question – as in “Who else can I work with to make this happen?”
So make room for more questions in your work. You’ll allow for more possibilities and engage more people. You’ll increase your ability to reimagine and innovate, creating a more meaningful and engaging culture for your team and better solutions for your customers.
Need some ideas to get you started? You might enjoy these resources: