“Ask Affirming Questions”

Companies that deliver great customer service Ask Affirming Questions.  If you ever want to read a really good book someday read Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.  It’s an old book but a very relevant book today.  In his book Maltz teaches us that our bodies are designed to look for the answers. That there is something in us that drives us to look for answers. Some may say it’s God, some may say it’s DNA but, Maltz calls it the ‘servo-mechanism.’  He says our bodies are designed to look for the answer to the questions we ask it.  The problem is that we ask it bad questions.

Go to this YouTube video for a 7 minute video of Mark Isaac explaining Ask Affirming Questions.  http://bit.ly/Nxv5c4 

Think about this, maybe you’ve done this, I know I have.  You’re sitting at your kitchen table and you have all those bills spread out in front of you. Maybe you’re paying by phone, maybe online or maybe the old fashion way, you’re writing out a check. 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 live check to check?”

Our bodies are designed to look for the answers.  So, when you ask a question like, “”Why can’t I get out of debt?” Your mind is answering, “Well, your credit cards are maxed out, you only pay the minimum, and everyday on your way to work, you stop and buy a $6.00 latte. 

When you ask yourself, “Why am I so fat?”  Your mind answers, “Well, because I’m like the average American, and sit around everyday watching four hours of television 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 everyday?”

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?”  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?

You see, sixty percent of the public will terminate a relationship with a company based on a bad customer service experience.  And the problem is they don’t tell us, they just leave.  Developing the skill to ask affirming questions in your marketing pieces, in your frontline employees, and in your customer surveys will keep the customer close and communicating.

I believe the next big wave in customer service will be, making it easy for customers to complain. If we can get the customer talking to us we build better, more profitable, relationships.  And the way to get them communicating is by asking affirming questions.

The first step in developing this skill is to start observing the kinds of questions you are asking. Listen to the quality of questions you are asking yourself and listen to the people around you.  Make sure you’re all asking affirming questions that look for solutions.  Remember, it’s not, “What’s the problem?”  it’s “How can I help?”

Then, through effective coaching, get everyone practicing this powerful tool.


“Be of Service”

Here’s a question for you, don’t over think it, it’s not a trick question. What does Harley-Davidson Manufacture? Motorcycles, right? OK, here’s another, this one is the trick question. What does Harley-Davidson sell? Now if your answers may be more like, the open road, bad-boy image, or American style. What does a good realtor sell? To some it may be the American Dream, for others it may be an investment.  What does a good travel agent sell?  For you it may be rest and recreation. For me, when I’m talking with my travel agent, I know I’m going someplace to earn some money.

Here’s is another YouTube clip on why you should be signing up for my latest open workshop “Leading Service Teams” coming March 19-20 in Minneapolis.  http://bit.ly/1l6uzA9

 You see, companies that deliver great service, don’t talk about what their product or service is, they talk about what their product or service will do for the customer.  More specifically, they talk about how their product or service will help customers reach their goals or fix their problems; how it will serve. 

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 IRA programs as being an investment for the future, 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.

To the customer, when you speak in terms of being of service, you sound different than your competition.  The average company, the company that delivers poor customer service, will talk about their products as if it is the very thing we’re buying, we’re not.  We’re buying what the product will do for us.  And in this age of commodity and competition, many times the only way the average company can differentiate themselves is by price, a lower price.  When in fact, according to a Harvard study, companies that deliver great service, have a 15 to 20 % cost advantage, they get to charge more.

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.

Exceptional Service is the ‘Necessary Evil’

When you take an average customer service training workshop you spend much of the time in the session looking for ways to practice exceptional service. You look for different ways to attempt to separate your company for the competition and how to shine when you make a mistake with the customer.  And to the degree of how well you deliver the service – it may be perceived as exceptional.

But delivering exceptional customer service may be a losing effort.  Exceptional service is what I call the necessary evil – we have to do it, if we don’t our competition will.  But there are three issues with exceptional service.  

Sign up for my “Leading Service Teams’ workshop coming March 19-20. Watch this 7 minutes video for a sample.  http://bit.ly/1l6uzA9

First, let me paint a picture.  If I own an auto repair station, and you own an auto repair shop, and you’re my competition, and you hear after doing business with me I’m washing the cars of my customers. Can you start washing the cars of your customers?  Sure you can.  If I hear you’re filling the gas tanks of your customers, can I start filling gas tanks?  Of course I can.  That’s a big problem with exceptional service; it can be duplicated. 

Duplicating our competition is easier than ever, all I have to do is go to your website and look at the services you provide.  If I see something you’re doing that I’m not, all I have to do is copy you.  All you have to do is come to my auto shop and look around, maybe have a car serviced there and you will know what types of services I’m providing.  Then you can decide if you want to duplicate them.

Here’s another problem with exceptional service.  If I’m filling the gas tanks for my customers or if I’m washing the cars before I return them to my customers, can that be expensive?  That’s a big problem with exceptional service – it can be expensive. Companies that focus their energy on providing exceptional service to their customers run the risk of violating the ‘slight edge’ of economics. Especially small businesses in tough economic times, you have to be careful about where your money is goes. Providing exceptional service can be expensive.

Another evil to exceptional service is this.  Let’s say, after getting my car fixed, I say to you, “Hey, I just got my car fixed at that dealership and when they were done, they washed my car for me.  Pretty cool, right?”  You may say, “Well, they should wash it, with the high prices they charge.” 

You see, exceptional service suffers from a problem of perception.  What I perceive as exceptional, you may not have the same view.  Just because we proclaim to be practicing exceptional service doesn’t mean our customers will perceive it as exceptional.

We have to practice exceptional service, if we don’t, our competition will.  But this necessary evil can be easily duplicated, can be expensive and a large percentage of our customers may not perceive what we practice as exceptional.

Big Picture Thinking

Hello Friends,

Here’s is another YouTube clip on why you should be signing up for my latest open workshop “Leading Service Teams” coming March 19-20 in Minneapolis.  http://bit.ly/1l6uzA9

Customer service, managing others and time management were three of the top five areas of interests to learn more about, according to recent surveys.  This makes sense; ultimately the level service you provide to your customer will depend on the culture you create for your employees. 

“Frankly speaking, I found the Training programme very educative and highly rewarding.”

Globacom (Nigeria)

On March 19th and 20th, in Bloomington, MN, I will be conducting my two-day managers and supervisors workshop called, “Leading Service Teams” (LST). 

 What’s at the core of LST is to make the participants better, more effective communicators so they can engage employees to take ownership of the customer service message. 

 “The lessons on MBA remains the most beneficial of all, with MBA you can get virtually anything resolved.”

E-Tech Complete Solutions Limited

Some key topics discussed are the Maturity Ladder, Tyranny of the Urgent, Mutual Benefits Agreement, Public Praise and much more.  Also, you will learn the “Seven Slight Edges” to great customer service and how to coach them to your team.  There will be discussion, role playing, group work and team building exercises.

The fee for this insightful and rewarding workshop is $149.00.  Materials are provided.  There is a limit of 30 participants. 

 “…this is the first training I have done had with the company that made sense and applied to my job. Thank You!”  Avaya 

Get more done, with and through your team by attending this workshop.  March promises to be a great learning experience.

 Please, feel free to contact me with any questions.

Thank you.


“Meeting the Four Fundamental Needs”

Saratoga Institute conducted a study on over 4000 existing-employees from 1998 to 2012. They found there are 67 reasons why employees leave and 57 of them are preventable.  And of the 57 preventable reasons—it was discovered within them there are 4 common denominators to quitting.  Employees begin to disengage and think about quitting when at least one of four fundamental needs are not being met.

The need for trust: Expecting management to follow through on the things they say they are going to do. 

The need have hope: Knowing that you will have an opportunity to grow, to use your skills and grow within the company.

“EFFORT & the Role of Leadership” open workshop coming in April—plenty of time to sign up.  Let me know if you want to see an outline.

The need to feel worthy: The feeling that if you do your job and do it to the best of your abilities you will be recognized, appreciated.

The need to feel competent: Expecting you will be matched to a position that will allow you to use your talents and be prepared for future roles within the company.  And be allowed the see the end results of your work.

There were unavoidable reasons for why an employee quits—commuting distance, retirement, birth of a child, day care issues, relocation, family issues, too much travel, returned to school and a death or illness in the family.  But the study shows these reasons only amounted to about 5% of the total number of reasons.

About the Author(s)

Mark Isaac, Owner of Gorman Business Consultants has been sharing his insights and applications for over 25 years on topics ranging from customer service, management and supervisory coaching and communication, the difference between Quality customer service and exceptional customer service, time management for leaders and much, much more.  You can contact me at mark@gormanbusinessconsultants.com