We’ve talked extensively about the importance of active listening on this blog. When customer service agents receive calls from customers, especially disgruntled or frustrated ones, listening closely to their complaints and their description of the situation is critical to building trust and rapport between the agent and the customer as well as reaching a resolution faster. But listening and empathizing can only take an agent so far. At some point in the call, the agent needs to take the ball and begin collecting more information and troubleshooting the customer’s problem. When this time comes, there are certain types of questions that will simultaneously show the customer that they should trust your ability to help them and get you closer to finding a resolution.

What are these questions? They are direct, open-ended and investigative.

Direct. Sometimes you do need to ask clarifying or basic questions to obtain more information about the customer and their situation. This is totally fine, as long as you are asking direct questions with specific answers. Try to avoid yes or no questions as much as possible, as these sorts of questions don’t feel like they are moving the conversation forward at all and can stoke frustration in the customer. Also, if you need to ask clarifying questions, try to get them out of the way early in the call and as quickly as you can so you can move onto the troubleshooting phase of the call.

Open-Ended. This is when you start digging in and asking for more details about the situation the customer is experiencing. Questions should never be leading, as these can feel to customers like you (and by extension, the company) are defensive about the situation and/or think that the customer is in the wrong, neither of which should ever be the case. Instead, you want to give the customer the space and the opportunity to explain exactly what happened. Questions such as “when did you first notice the problem?” and “how long have you had this problem/how many times have you experienced this?” are great questions to ask to get a better idea of what exactly happened. Or, if the customer did not open the call with a description of their issue, a simple “take me through what happened” is an excellent place to start.

Important to note: This is where those active listening skills really come into play, as you need to be listening to the customer’s answers to your open-ended questions in such a way that you are able to identify the aspects of their situation that will guide your questions and your problem-solving efforts as you move forward with the call.

Investigative. Finally, we reach the questions that will hopefully lead you to a resolution for the customer. These are the questions that will get you the details that are specific to this customer’s experience. Questions like “what did you try to fix this before calling us?” or “what is the error message that you are seeing?” will fill in the final gaps in the story that you need clarified before proceeding to troubleshoot the problem. These questions are also critical because you don’t want to spend precious seconds or minutes during a call offering a solution that a customer has already tried or one that is not pertinent to their specific situation, which will only serve to sour the relationship you have built over the course of the call.

While asking these questions and actively listening to the responses, the agent should also be recording relevant information. That means they must have a quality call center platform like CallShaper that makes it easy to do all these things at once. To learn more about how CallShaper will support your agents, contact us today.