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Customer conversations guide: 10 questions you should add to your script

Let’s face it, any business owner can benefit from conversations with customers. It’s the only way to find out what customers think. In this post, you will learn which questions will prompt customers to share their views in depth.

What do your customers really want?

According to a new report called Leading By Example most company directors and board members don’t have a clear understanding of what their customers want, and often ignore the views of those that do – their front line people!

  • Only 50% of employees think their CEO and board are interested in customer insight.
  • Only 36% of managers think their senior executives actively listen to customers.
  • Less than 50% believe that senior executives understand customer needs.

Think about how these perceptions may impact employees when they deal with their customers.

Seek your customers’ opinions

Our experience suggests that the real winners in today’s marketplaces don’t just listen to their customers, they actively seek their opinions. As well as having feedback systems to help them monitor and ‘keep in touch’ with what their customers are experiencing (think NPS) they also create conversations with their customers – and actively find out what they think.

Conversations with customers lead to better customer relationships. They are a great source of ideas, opportunities, improvements, and demonstrate to your customers you care (provided of course you do listen and then act!).

For an effective interview with a customer, you need to be prepared. Here are 10 questions to help get you started… These questions are not the ‘traditional’ customer feedback questions that typically get asked, and I’m not suggesting to ask every customer all these questions.

They are a bit different, and their aim is to get conversations going, challenge the status quo and help you develop and reinforce your competitive advantage: the things that differentiate your business. They may also help you improve your performance, attitude and relationships (no guarantees though!).

10 questions to ask right now

1. What originally attracted you to us?

This helps to get a view of how you are seen in the marketplace and what are the things that appeal to your customers – it might confirm or reveal your competitive advantage.

2. Why do you buy from us?

This highlights your strengths and your competitive advantage – some elements of which, you may not be aware of. (Be careful how you phrase this one! You might sound as if you’re doubting yourselves if you say it wrong!)

3. When do you buy from us (and when do you buy from our competitors)?

This might highlight some opportunities. Are they buying things from your competitors that you do provide / could provide?

4. Who can we learn from?

This helps you identify who your customers see as ‘role models’, and might just point something out that’s not happening in your industry you could learn from.

5. What would you do if we weren’t here?

This may give an insight into the value they place on you as a supplier – Would they actually notice?

6. Can you name one particular individual who has impressed you in our business?

This highlights your customer champions, and maybe some of your ‘unsung heroes’. If they can’t name anyone, what does that say about the way your people interact with your customers

7. What one thing could we do better?

Just one thing – it may highlight their priorities and key issues to help identify and develop that competitive advantage!

8. What one thing do we do or don’t do that irritates or annoys you?

This one speaks for itself! The key is doing something about it!

9. What would you say to someone else who asked you about us?

Their initial response to this is often a revealing one! It helps highlight how you are perceived by your customers (Remember, ‘perception is reality’!)

10. What is the one thing we should never stop doing?

This one tells you what they really value about you.

And finally, a bonus question which is a tough one to ask, but it’s a great one.

Are you ‘completely’ happy with us / what we’re doing?

It can only be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s a brave question, but it stops us rationalising away when people score us a 7 or 8 when we ask them to rate us out of 10.

The obvious follow-up question is …

Why / Why not?

You may feel you can’t ask these questions to your customers. That’s not a problem, but why not find some questions that you can ask?

So, go on, ask some questions, listen to the responses and do something as a result. What have you got to lose?

And here’s the last question for you…

Have you got any other questions that work for you?

If you do, please let us know – we can all learn from each other.

This is a guest post by Andy HanselmanAndy Hanselman - Customer conversations guide, who helps businesses and their people create competitive advantage. He is the author of Thinking in 3D: Dramatically and Demonstrably Different!

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