Ask Affirming Questions

Companies that deliver great service and keep the customers they have ‘Ask Affirming Questions.’

Think about this, maybe you’ve done this, I know I have.  You’re sitting at your kitchen table, you have all those bills spread out in front of you, and you’re writing out all of those checks.  And when you’re done you look into the registry and see there’s still some month left at the end of the money!  And you ask yourself that very bad question, “Why am I always in debt?”  Or, “Why can’t I get ahead?”  Or, “Why do I always live check to check?”

Our bodies are designed to look for the answers.  So in your mind, when you ask why you are always in debt, your mind thinks the answer is, “Well, your credit cards are maxed out, you only pay the minimum, and every day on your way to work you stop and buy a $4.00 latte. 

It’s not, “Why am I so fat?”  because your body is going to say, “Well, because you’re like the average American sitting around watching four hours of television everyday eating cheese puffs.”

Here’s your hint, most affirming questions start out with, “How can I” or “What can I.”  So it’s not, “Why am I so fat?” it’s “How can I lead a healthy lifestyle?”  Or, “How can I eat right every day?”

The rephrasing leads to reframing in our minds.  We begin to look for solutions instead of looking at the problem. 

Companies that deliver great customer service are continually asking their customers, “How can we help?”  “What can we do for you?”  “How can we do better?”

Companies that deliver poor service ask the upset customer questions like, “What’s wrong?”  Or, “What’s the problem?”  Or, as we say in Minnesota, “What’s the matter?”  If you ask an upset customer, “What’s the problem?” what are you going to hear? 

The first step in changing the types of questions you ask yourself is in observing; listen to the quality of questions you are asking yourself and the people around you.  Make sure you’re asking affirming questions that look for solutions.  Observe the questions your staff is using; remember, it’s not, “What’s the problem?”  It’s “How can I help?”

A Caring Experience

I would like to take this time to write about two unique workshops I have coming up in the next 8 weeks.  Both are specific to health care professionals.

I have been a consultant for 24 years and I have worked with hospitals, clinics and skilled nursing facilities across the country.

These two workshops have the same three goals; to ensure positive patient outcomes, to strengthen your facility’s image in the community and increase referral sources.

Please follow this link for a 5 minute video outline of both programs.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frL7YnwaX84

Thank you.

Mark

Mark Isaac

mark@gormanbusinessconsultants.com

 

Mutual Benefits Agreement

A manager needs a method of effective communication, a process they can use in any situation.  Salespeople use a logical, repeatable process to try and gain a sale.  Managers and supervisors need their staff to ‘buy’ into the vision of the company leadership, so why not have a logical, repeatable process to ensure success? 

 This is what I like to call, “Mutual Benefits Agreement” or MBA.    It’s an agreement between you and the members of your team.  Done properly, you will fully engage your staff because it will cover all of the benefits of an engaged employee listed above. 

 Five steps to the MBA.

 State the desired outcome; what gets done and when, keep it simple and to the point. 

Give guidelines; paint a big picture of what the outcome will look like.

Give them the tools; give them the ‘things’ they will need to reach the desired results.  List yourself as a resource and ask them what they think they will need.

Timetable; hold them accountable by checking in with them.

Consequences; what will be the good or bad reaction to either achieving or missing the desired outcome.

 A few rules to keep in mind about the MBA are; use it in any situation, follow the steps in order, always list you as a resource, and remember to ask them what they need to get the job done.

Be of Service

 Being of service is the most rewarding of all the “Seven Slight Edges” because it helps to meet our desire to leave a legacy.  When we help our customers to meet their needs and goals they will always remember us and be loyal to us.  And, when they return time and time again to do business with us, we will strengthen our legacy, a legacy of service.

All of your communication with customers should center on how you are of service to them.  Emails, brochures, advertisings, signage, all should state how you are of service.  This is not the attitude of, “What’s in it for me?”  It’s the attitude of, “What’s in it for you?”

You can use a simple formula to help create your message.  Research the target market; read trade journals, visit their websites, talk the people in the industry.  Uncover issues; ask them and yourself questions like, “What needs and goals are my customers trying to meet?”  Or, “How can my product help my customers?”  Then craft your message; write it so it directly addresses your customers needs.

How your product or service will serve the customer is how you can differentiate yourself from the competition.  If you’re a home builder, and you talk about the homes you build in terms of brick and mortar, you’re going to sound like every home builder.  If you’re a banker, and you talk about your 529 college savings accounts as a fancy savings account, you’ll sound like every other banker.  Speak in terms of how these things serve, and you find your customers are loyal because they feel you understand them.

Important, Not Urgent

No matter what our demand of time is, the supply will never go up.  There’s no price you can pay for it, it’s completely perishable and it cannot be stored.  Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never be back.  Time is always is short supply.

 Effective leaders knows in order to manage their time, they must know where their time goes.  The first step to a high level of effectiveness, the leader must keep a time log.   

Many effective leaders keep a log for 3 to 4 weeks, twice a year.  Personally, I prefer 1 week out of each quarter throughout the year.

Don’t get hung-up about how to keep your log; Outlook makes it easy, you can use your own personal planner or, if possible, have your assistant keep one for you.  The important thing is to keep one and make it accurate. 

Once your time log is complete, have it open in front of you and ask yourself three very important questions.

  1. What would be the result if this task was never done again?
  2. What tasks can someone else do as well, if not better, than me?
  3. What tasks impact my staff, either positively or negatively? 

Important tasks bring us closer to our goals, coaching our team, reading, and exercising.  Urgent tasks have the appearance of requiring immediate attention, a ringing phone, an email from our boss, an upset customer.  The key is to focus your energy on what is important and NOT urgent.  And the best ‘important/not urgent’ task is developing your relationships, with the spouse, your kids, and your team.

Big Picture Thinking & Service

If you’re not happy with the level of service you and your company provide, it’s because you haven’t taken the time to define what you mean by great service.  You haven’t developed a strong enough WHY for your staff to align themselves with.  You’re allowing them to show up for work at 9:00 in the morning with the only thing on their mind is, “When and where is lunch.”  

Employees that don’t see the big picture, and are confronted by an upset customer, ask themselves questions like, “Why is this guy yelling at me?  Doesn’t he know that I have a lot of data I need to put into the system before I can go home?”  “It’s bowling night!” 

Whereas an employee that understands the big picture deals with the upset customer in an entirely different way.  They ask, “How can I deliver great service to this person?  What does it mean to me, to the customer, to the company if I deliver great service now?”   

If you’re not getting the level of service you want from your staff you have no one to blame but yourself.  You haven’t painted a big enough, bright enough, clear enough picture for them.  

 

Mutual Benefit continued

Once your employees have the attitude of Mutual Benefit and the skill of Ask/Listen/Respond, you and the company will benefit in three significant ways. 

Creative Outcomes

When an employee thinks in terms of Mutual Benefits they’ll take the time to use the skill of Ask/Listen/Respond.  From there, there is a high probability of Creative Outcomes.  There will be a new and different way to do things; hopefully a better, more efficient and effective, way.  Teams that think Mutual Benefit and communicate with Ask/Listen/Respond will ask questions to the customer like, “How can we do this better?”  “What do you want us to do for you?”  And, “How can I make this process easier for you?”  But, if they don’t care about the customer, they won’t take the time to ask anything and will never find a Creative Outcome. 

Learning

Employees that understand Mutual Benefits will take the time to learn about their jobs.  The best employees never stop learning all they can about their company and industry.  Not learning makes any job harder.  When the employee understands Mutual Benefits, they will take the action to learn more about their jobs. 

Following Through

Instill into your staff some customer service rules to ensure follow through; keeping their promises.  For instance, use the ‘Sundown Rule’ to make sure your team solves your customer issues by the end of the workday.  Another rule is the ‘Ownership Rule’ to make sure a customer doesn’t get bounced from department to department.  The employee, who hears the problem, owns the problem and must solve it to the customer’s satisfaction. 

An employee that lacks the skill of Mutual Benefits doesn’t care about his job within the company, or if he is bothered by customers, he is not likely to keep his promises.  Not keeping your promises is a violation of a trust.  And for every promise broken, it takes many more promises kept, before a customer trusts you again.

The Skill of Mutual Benefits

I hear it all the time; someone will tell me they would never go to the supply closet, remove a pack of “Post-it Notes” and bring it home with them, because that would be stealing.  But these are the same people that will spend twenty minutes standing around the water cooler, with three other coworkers, and gossip about last night’s football game.  The gossiping is far more expensive to the company.

Someday I’m going to write a book about this topic and call it, “Go Ahead and Steal the Post-it’s, Then Get Back to Work!”

The employee must understand, from the manager’s coaching, there is a relationship of Mutual Benefits between themselves and the company that hired them, you do your job and the company will write you a paycheck. 

But too many employees don’t think in terms of Mutual Benefits, they think they’re entitled to the check simply by showing up.  These people don’t understand their responsibility to the company, to the customer, and to do their jobs.  But, when employees have the attitude of Mutual Benefit, they are at the starting point of genuine customer service.

Once an employee knows and understands the importance of Mutual Benefits, they can now practice the skill of Ask/Listen/Respond.  

Ask/Listen/Respond is a skill that every manager must coach into every employee.  All of the three steps must be done and done in order.  Too many people think they know all of the answers and begin trying to respond to the customer’s issues by immediately talking without asking what it is the customer really needs.  These employees like the sound of their own voice and respond too much.  Or, too many employees ask a lot of questions, listen to the customer’s needs, and then, when it’s time to make a decision; they transfer the customers’ call to another employee.  These employees are afraid to make a decision.  They are caught-up in what I call, “perma-prepare” they are permanently preparing to make a decision, they just never do. 

Once your employees have the attitude of Mutual Benefit and the skill of Ask/Listen/Respond, you and the company will benefit in three significant ways.

Webinar: Effective Communication for Leaders

Follow this link for a three and half minute video explaining why my upcoming webinar for managers and supervisors is so well received.

http://www.youtube.com/user/7slightedges 

On September 13, I will be conducting my “Effective Communication for Leaders” webinar for managers and supervisors.  In two hours your leaders will learn how to fully engage their team using a logical, repeatable communication tool. 

Each connection is $97.00 and I don’t care how many participate from your company.  You will see me on video with a power point presentation and I’ll send you a handout to make copies and follow along.  Also, I’ll send you a copy of my power point presentation.  This is a great package.

‘Ask Affirming Questions’

Companies that deliver great service and keep the customers they have ‘Ask Affirming Questions.’

Think about this, maybe you’ve done this, I know I have.  You’re sitting at your kitchen table, you have all those bills spread out in front of you, and you’re writing out all of those checks.  And when you’re done you look into the registry and see there’s still some month left at the end of the money!  And you ask yourself that very bad question, “Why am I always in debt?”  Or, “Why can’t I get ahead?”  Or, “Why do I always live check to check?”

Our bodies are designed to look for the answers.  So in your mind, when you ask why you are always in debt, your mind thinks the answer is, “Well, your credit cards are maxed out, you only pay the minimum, and every day on your way to work you stop and buy a $4.00 latte. 

It’s not, “Why am I so fat?”  because your body is going to say, “Well, because you’re like the average American sitting around watching four hours of television everyday eating cheese puffs.”

Here’s your hint, most affirming questions start out with, “How can I” or “What can I.”  So it’s not, “Why am I so fat?” it’s “How can I lead a healthy lifestyle?”  Or, “How can I eat right every day?”

The rephrasing leads to reframing in our minds.  We begin to look for solutions instead of looking at the problem. 

Companies that deliver great customer service are continually asking their customers, “How can we help?”  “What can we do for you?”  “How can we do better?”  Companies that deliver poor service ask the upset customer questions like, “What’s wrong?”  Or, “What’s the problem?”  Or, as we say in Minnesota, “What’s the matter?” 

If you ask an upset customer, “What’s the problem?” what are you going to hear?  But if you ask, “How can I help?” what are you going to hear?