Remember when I wrote I sold real estate when I got out of college, and I was really bad at it? When the handwriting was on the wall and it was clear that things weren’t going to work out for me, my manager came to me and said I needed to look in the mirror every morning and say ten times, “I’m the best salesperson in the company. I’m the best salesperson in the company. I’m the best salesperson in the company.” So I did that, every morning for about three months. Well, the problem was, I wasn’t the best salesperson in the company, in fact, many times I was the worst salesperson in the company. I felt like I was lying to myself.
But you could see what my manager was trying to get me to do, recite daily affirmations and bolster my confidence.
Later, when I started my training career I read in a few different books—“Psycho-Cybernetics” by Maxwell Maltz and “Unlimited Power” by Anthony Robbins—that the quality of our life is the quality of the questions we asked ourselves. They wrote that our bodies are designed to look for the answers—Maltz called it our servo-mechanism. They taught me to ask myself better questions—questions that looked at the solutions and not the problem.
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 you’re paying online or maybe you’re paying the old fashioned 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, every month you only pay the minimum, and every day 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, I 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 always in debt?” Ask, “How can I manage my money better?” Don’t ask, “Why am I so fat?” instead ask, “How can I lead a healthy lifestyle?” Or, “How can I eat right everyday?”
During a 7 Slight Edges workshop in El Paso, Texas I asked the group, “Don’t ask, ‘Why won’t my husband listen to me?’ What should you ask?” And a woman raised her hand and said, “What hammer do I have to hit him with to get him to listen to me?” Not a great question but at least she’s trying.
Companies that deliver poor service ask the upset customer questions like, “What’s wrong?” Or, “What’s the problem?” Or as we like to ask in Minnesota, “What’s the matter?” If you ask an upset customer, “What’s the problem?” what are you going to hear? The problem, right? But if you ask, “How can I help?” what are you going to hear? The rephrasing leads to reframing in our minds. We begin to look for solutions instead of looking at the problem.
Another aspect to ask affirming questions is sending out surveys to your customers. Companies that deliver great customer service are continually asking their customers, “How was your experience?” “What can we do differently?” “How can we do better?” “What products and services would you like to see us offer?”
Companies that deliver poor service don’t ask questions like this to their customers. They don’t want to know the answers—they are afraid they will have to something different.
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.