Effective Questioning Skills
Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor
How important is it to ask good questions? It’s very important.
It’s important you use questioning skills to help you completely
understand the caller’s situation. Otherwise, you could be
responding to what you guess the caller means, which may or may not
be correct. Questioning goes beyond listening.
Effective questioning is a real compliment to your skills.
It shows that you have the ability to understand the caller's real
needs. It shows that you are looking for meaning that’s deeper than
the spoken message. Effective questioning is a powerful, learned
skill. It says to the caller, “I’m interested in determining your
Questioning can be put into two divisions: Open-Ended Questions and
Open-Ended Questions: Open-ended questions are questions
without a fixed limit. They encourage continued conversation, and
help you get more information. Plus, they often provide
opportunities to gain insight into the other person’s feelings.
Open-ended questions draw out more information. If you want the
caller to open up, use open-ended questions that start with who,
what, where, why, when, and how. A few examples are:
are some of the things you look for in a hotel?”
you feel government could be more responsive to your needs?”
are your concerns about this new program?”
Closed-Ended Questions: Closed-ended questions have a fixed
limit. They’re often answered with a yes or no, or with a simple
statement of fact. Closed-ended questions are used to direct the
conversation. They usually get specific information or confirm
facts. Here are some examples.
have health insurance?”
want the new brochure?”
you be interested in that?”
We use the open-ended questions to get more information and the
closed-ended questions to focus in on one area.
Additionally, there are several other type of questioning
techniques. A few are:
Probing Questions: Sometimes you ask an open-ended question
to get more information and you only get part of what you need. Now
it’s time for a probing question. A probing question is another
open-ended question, but it’s a follow-up. It’s narrower. It asks
about one area. Here’s an example:
topic areas are you interested in?” This question would be better
than reading off 50 topics to the caller. It’s a probing question.
A few other examples are:
able to tell me more about the form you received?”
did you like best about Paris?”
Probing questions are valuable in getting to the heart of the
The Echo Question: Here’s a good technique for getting more
information. You can use this like a probing question. The idea is
to use the last part of a phrase the caller said. Slightly raise
the tone of your voice at the end of the phrase to convert it to a
question. Then pause and use silence – like this:
bill you received?”
An echo question repeats part of the phrase that the caller used,
using voice inflection to convert it to a question. Some people
call it mirroring or reflecting. Others call it parroting. We call
it echoing. Whatever you call it, it’s a valuable technique to
Leading Questions: Many things can be good or bad. Take fire
for example. Fire warms our home, cooks our food, and does many
other useful things. Uncontrolled, it can burn down our houses.
The reason we use that example is because leading questions can also
be good or bad. Leading questions, if used improperly, can be
manipulative because you’re leading the person to give the answer
you want. When they are used properly, you’re helping that person.
Some examples of proper leading questions are:
understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”
want to know about our same day delivery service, right?”
want to go ahead with this, won't you?”
Leading questions often end with suggestive nudges toward the
desired answer. Some ending phrases would be, “Don’t you?”,
“Shouldn’t you?”, “Won’t you?”, “Haven’t you?”, and “Right?”
So where are leading questions useful? Well, they’re useful in
helping someone who’s undecided make the right decision, a decision
that will benefit them. You use a leading question ethically when
you help someone do the right thing. Some folks call this technique
the “tie down” technique because you’re actually trying to tie down
the caller's needs.
The bottom line is to practice using a variety of questioning
techniques. It will help you help your callers more effectively.
After all, you want to provide the very best customer service, don’t
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