The Secret to Asking Questions Correctly


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It's How You Say ItCustomer Experience

My buddy Gary Chervitz just came back from Las Vegas. He was excited to share a customer service story with me. He prefaced it by saying it may not sound like a big deal, but after he told me what happened, I told him that while it may not be a big deal, it was still extremely important and worth sharing.

Gary was at a restaurant and almost finished with his meal. He had set his fork and knife down. The server noticed he had stopped eating, yet there was still a little food left on the plate. He asked Gary, “Are you continuing to enjoy your meal?” Gary acknowledge with a simple, “Yes,” and the server came back later, after Gary had obviously finished, and took his plate.

What impressed Gary was not that the server was polite and obviously very good at his job. It was the server’s question. The actual words he used, “Are you continuing to enjoy your meal?”

What made that question stand out was what happened after talking to Gary when I went to dinner with my wife. Toward the end of the meal the server came over and asked, “You still working on that?”

I never really thought about that question before – until that night. I replayed the conversation Gary and I had earlier that day. I contrasted the two servers’ questions. Both servers’ intentions were the same, to take care of us. It’s just the language they used. One was polite – even classy and sophisticated. The other, in comparison, was a little “raw.”

Again, I’d never thought much about this before. Servers have asked questions such as, “Can I take your plate?” or “Are you finished?” They are just doing their job. Even, “Are you done with that?” isn’t bad. Until you compare it to the classiness of, “Are you continuing to enjoy your meal?”

Let me share another example. I’m sure you’ve walked into a retail store and a salesperson came up to you and with a friendly smile, welcomed you and asked, “Can I help you?”

Compare that with what my friends at Ace Hardware train their people to say as a greeting. Again, with a friendly smile and warm greeting, the salesperson asks, “What can I help you find today?”

Totally different ways to ask the same question, even though you may get the same answer. Yet the customer experience is enhanced by the way the question is asked. In the restaurant, it is classier. In the retail store, it’s a friendlier open ended question.

The secret to having people ask the right questions – in the right way – is training. Create the right question, describe the scenario, even consider role playing the scenario, and then practice it. Training and reinforcement. That’s the key to getting the people to phrase questions, responses and statements the way they should be made.

It’s all in how you say it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shep Hyken
Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. As a customer service speaker and expert, Shep works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. He is a hall of fame speaker (National Speakers Association) and a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author.


  1. Great piece. In the hardware store example, I’d argue that it’s also a better sales technique – you’re inviting a specific response rather than the generic, instinctive ‘I’m fine thanks’.


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