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Marketing | Sep 21
Belynda Cianci on November 13, 2019 • 20 minute read
“The customer is always right.”
It may be an old chestnut, but this idea remains one of the most powerful truths in sales and marketing.
No matter what your product or service, feedback from customer service interview questions can be one of the strongest indicators of its value.
The right kind of feedback can help your sales teams understand the customer journey, identify their pain points and better handle points of friction in the purchase process.
Customer feedback can also help development teams roadmap new features and improvements, or even create entirely new products to meet the needs of your ideal targets. Analyzing feedback trends over time is a big part of understanding the potential future of your offering.
But with so much to be gained from analyzing customer experience, are there best practices for soliciting comments and feedback?
What types of questions and what approaches yield the best response rates, and the most actionable data?
We asked 37 of our experts to share their top customer service interview questions, and talk about the rationale behind their feedback systems.
While some of our respondents took traditional approaches, others surprised us with variations on the classics.
They provided nearly a dozen great ways to approach customers and get the best information about the sales process, the experience, and the outcomes of products and services.
There’s also a clever bonus question we hadn’t considered before!
Click one of the sections above to skip to that question type, or scroll through all the insights below.
Overwhelmingly, our experts cited the practice of asking customers about their experience with the process or product, and finding out if it met (or exceeded) expectations as one of the best ways to gain feedback.
David Peterson of HealthMarkets keeps it very straightforward when addressing customers. “What could we do to make your experience better? This is likely to elicit modest to large improvements we can make, and will often identify pain points. What could we have done to exceed your expectations?” Peterson liked this approach for its ability to “yield unexpected and original ideas that can drive innovation.”
This approach also resonates with Rachita Sharma of Girl Power Talk, a youth and women’s empowerment organization. Sharma takes the personal approach to understand how the team interacts with customers, and will often ask “Did our people succeed at meeting your expectations or at least befriending you? Please let us know how can we make your experience more comfortable and personal.” Sharma is committed to the relationship-building aspects of the experience. “Remember people do business with people.”
Jitendra Vaswani of BloggersIdeas.com seeks to understand the top-of-funnel experience when surveying customers. Vaswani listed several favorite questions organized around this idea. “How did you find us? How long have you been a customer? What made you want to try us? Did you use a competitor before us?
Vaswani keeps it “short and sweet” when soliciting customer feedback. “Never perplex your customers with long questions.” Vaswani also proposes collecting this information at a prime time — right in the store at point of service, a practice seen as a big benefit for offline operations.
Carlos Puig of BUNCH likes experience-centered customer service interview questions for a number of reasons. Asking “How will you rate your last experience with us” allows you to learn what your customer thinks about your service, offer solutions to a problem or compensate the customer if it turns out they are upset, lets your customers “tell you about their feelings, so they don’t feel the need to vent on social media.” Puig also asks, “What would have made your experience with us better?
It’s so important to let your customers answer this question in their own way. Leave it open and be receptive to whatever feedback you get.” Finding out about their willingness to repeat business is equally important, according to Puig. “The only answer you want to receive is, Yes. If a high percentage of your customers are saying that they will not do repeat business with you, then there’s a problem that you need to know and fix ASAP.”
The open-ended approach also rings true for Osiris Parikh of Summit Mindfulness, who shared this. “Allowing for open-ended customer inputs can allow you to gain a perspective in things you may overlook, such as the usability of your payment system to the readability of documents. These responses can help the company take immediate action to improve the overall experience of their customers.”
Ben Arndt of DUNK Basketball agrees. “Essentially, it’s a straight-up ask — ‘What could we have done to improve your experience with us?’ From this, we’ve received some great feedback both small and large in nature that we’ve been able to action with excellent results.”
It’s often said that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. In this spirit, many of our experts shared that they asked questions about the least enjoyable parts of the process to better understand and respond to customers’ needs.
Levi Olmstead of LeviOlmstead.com focused on the problems customers’ may experience in daily life, as a way to gain good positioning as a solution. Olmstead asks, “‘What is causing you the most friction/problems at your business in general?” As Olmstead explains, “This helps you identify new TOFU content types to attract your target audience.”
Olmstead also explores areas of their service that may cause friction. “What is causing you the most friction/problems with our tool/service.” Olmstead says that this approach, “helps you build a knowledge base of questions your users have and reduce friction in the flywheel, and creates happy customers when you solve problems.”
Editor’s note: If you need to ensure speedy resolution of issues, using the HelpScout for Customer Support dashboard can give at-a-glance data on resolution times and first-reply times and percentages.
The power of asking customers to “give it to me straight” is evident, according to Michiel Koers of Topic. In asking customers what they found irritating about working with Topic, “you show that you aren’t afraid of getting honest feedback. It takes some guts to ask this! In my experience,” says Koers, “customers value this and give some good and unexpected points you can get better at.”
Eric Melillo of COFORGE explores not just the what, but the when and why of the issue. Melillo’s customer survey asks, “While engaging with us did you find yourself frustrated at any point of the buying process?” If yes, can you tell me when and why?”
This approach helps Jennifer Lux of LyntonWeb refine process. Lux asks, “At what point in our partnership (or of your experience with our brand) did you experience the most friction?” Said Lux of the approach, “I find this question helps identify the touchpoints that have the greatest potential for improvement so the customer success team can better focus on which changes in client management will yield the greatest improvements in the client experience.”
Vinoth AJ of Apoyo Corp really wants the untempered response from customers, and asks, “What does our product/service miss badly?” AJ says that this is “a genuine question to easily understand your customer’s hidden problems. Also, the customer will feel authoritative and pleased when you seek input from them. They will come up with their biggest pains in your market and also their best-preferred solution to overcome it.”
In the end, Apoyo uses this information to iterate. “Patiently collect all feedback and pick out the most prioritized obstacle. By solving those complications and integrating it into your current product or service, you will end up finding the sweet spot in your niche.”
AJ suggests others “Figure out what concerns your current customers from their feedback, solve that and use it as your USP to convert your new customers.”
Taking a slightly different approach, Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + Co. seeks the customer feedback of the ones that didn’t convert, asking, “Why didn’t you purchase? Leads who didn’t convert hold a wealth of information. Surveying your lost leads can help uncover key opportunities to improve your product and customer experience.”
Keeping an eye to the future is one of the best ways to ensure long-term growth and stability; that process becomes a lot easier when you have the support of good customer feedback. Customers will often tell you exactly what they need, given the chance.
Becky Beach of Mom Beach LLC takes the straight-forward approach to feature road-mapping, asking, “What products would you like to see? What did you like about the product? What didn’t you like about the product? How can we improve the product?” All of the feedback from these customer service interview questions provides exact targets to hit and avenues to explore.
“Being able to translate feedback into actionable change is tough when you have such a wide variety of suggestions pouring in,” says Garret Seevers of Azuga. “I’ve always thought the best question to ask customers: if they could only realistically make one thing about their customer experience different, what would it be?” Seevers says this question works well at scale. “Once a pattern of some issues coming up more than once is detected, then leadership can start determining which issues are the most urgent to tackle.”
Likewise, Dorian Reeves of SHIFT Agency asks simply, “What would you change about the product or service?”
Jonathan Chan of Insane Growth takes a similar, open-ended tack, asking, “Do you have any suggestions on how we can better serve you?” Damien Buxton of Midas Creative adds that asking the questions in a way to evoke emotional responses can add needed context. “That way you’ll ensure you’re getting right to the heart of the truth with honest feedback. Long after a customer has forgotten about a product or service they bought, they will remember the experience they had. That is something that lasts.”
Buxton phrases questions in a particular way, such as, “how do you feel we could improve your experience next time?” That way, “They can’t answer with a yes or no, and are more likely to give feedback on how you actually did based on their emotions, which is a lot more telling.”
Asking for suggestions forms the basis of Angela Ash‘s survey approach for Flow SEO, asking “What would you suggest to make the product or service even better?” Ash explains, “It’s super simple for a customer or client to simply check a box that lets you know that they enjoy what you’ve created. But, that’s not going to help you grow as a company. Survey what your customers would change to improve upon so that you can consider implementing it.”
Yaniv Masjedi of Nextiva agrees, asking “What (existing or new) feature needs to be improved or developed? What do you want to see in particular” As Masjedi explains, “This question dives straight into our customers’ needs. That’s who we are as a business: we make our customers’ lives easier by addressing their needs.
Jason Yau of CanvasPeople likes to understand the customer’s take on products at a granular level. “We like to be specific by asking the customer about the exact product they purchased. It should be the site’s goal to have the best quality product. Real/critical answers are much more valuable than ones praising the product.” Yau trends toward questions like, “How can we improve the product you purchased?”
Mike Golpa of G4 by Golpa and Elliott Jaffa of Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa Associates both focus on improving service specifically. Golpa asks, “How can we serve you better than we did today/last visit?” while Jaffa poses the question as a two-point improvement scenario. “What two things can I do to provide better service to you as my client?”
One of the most coveted outcomes of good service is a recommendation. Customers may enjoy your service, but you know they really trust a product or service when they put their own reputation on the line in extending recommendations to others — especially friends and family.
This earnest approach works well for Rodrigo Rivas of Gray Group International “Would you recommend this product to a friend or family member?” Says Rivas, “I believe that question makes you judge a product from an outside perspective because if one recommends something to the people one loves, it’s because that product is the absolute best and will somehow enhance the way they live.”
Dominika Samborska of Radial Path agrees, offering that this approach “paints a great picture in terms of customer satisfaction — the product and the experience. If they are willing to recommend us to their friends,” Samborska says, “it means we have ticked all the relevant boxes and the customer is very happy — they wouldn’t ruin their reputation with their friends by recommending the Okay-ish or bad company.”
Jake Rheude of Red Stag Fulfillment combines the “would you recommend us” approach with another classic device: the 0-10, worst-to-best scale. “We find that this question is the best indicator when it comes to customer satisfaction. Obviously, when someone answers with a number less than 10 we follow up with a simple text form asking them to explain why they are dissatisfied, so we can fix it.
“As a B2B service,” Rheude explains, “we don’t have the luxury of a short sales cycle or the high volume that a typical B2C business might have. So it’s incredibly important to us that we answer back quickly if someone is unhappy with our service — and just as important, solve their problem.” This approach also saves time and labor, according to Rheude “You don’t need to ask 10 questions to get helpful feedback. One will do just fine.”
Sometimes, the best customer feedback is that offered proactively, according to Dewayne Hamilton of Web Cosmo Forums. “In new market conditions, the imperative is the need to respect the desires and needs of the end consumers to whom the services or products are sold, and that kind of appreciation is the basis for creating an offer.” For Hamilton, “Customer reviews are a large part of that process. They allow business owners to asses their performance and identify areas that could be improved in order to offer a better service.”
“When you start worrying about comments and reviews,” Hamilton says, “customers and their experience will become the most important factor in your business strategy. In the end, don’t be offended, think carefully if the review is valid, and if so try to correct the mistake.”
Steve Pritchard of Checklate concurs. “Customer feedback is vital in figuring out what it is you’re doing well and what you could improve on – there’s always room to improve, but you don’t want to change the parts that are working.”
For many of our experts, the end result is the single most important factor of the process. Instead of looking into the top of the funnel, they look to the end of the customer journey for guidance: The transformation of problem resolution. This is the approach Laura Gariepy of Every Day by the Lake takes when soliciting customer feedback, asking “How did my service change your life or business?” As a business owner, Gariepy says “I want to have a certain impact on my customer’s life. In my specific case, I want to make their life easier, reduce stress, and free up more of their time. If they tell me that I’ve helped them do those things, I’ve been successful. If they didn’t have that experience, it means something went wrong. I look at trends in their feedback.”
This also works for Baptiste Debever of Feedier, who asks, “How could we make your life easier?”
“How/what questions are very powerful and the most efficient way of getting the person to talk,” says Debever. “Besides this, the question doesn’t explicitly ask for feedback, but leaves room for all types of feedback.
Getting straight to the heart of results is also key for Cayley Vos of Netpaths. The content provider asks customers, “How is the new copy we wrote for you working?” This approach gains immediate, actionable feedback based on the concrete results of the service.
Going back to the basic premise that a product or service needs to solve a problem for someone, Melissa Hughes of Foundation uses feedback to “understand the context of that problem.” Hughes says, “the best question is “What are you doing today to solve this problem?” Understanding how they manage this issue, according to Hughes, “gives great direction for how you may position a brand to be the winning solution.”
David LaVine of RocLogic Marketing and Jacqueline Payne of Search It Local ask, “How could we have made your life better?” and “in what ways has your life changed since engaging with our services?” Lavine thinks, “This is a good question because it implies there must be something. It’s also good because it doesn’t ask what was bad, just what could be better, and something can almost always be better.”
Lavine offers a caveat. “One thing to keep in mind though is that in the B2B services realm, tight relationships are often formed between the client and the service provider. That means you need to make the customer feel especially comfortable providing open and honest feedback. Including a statement around that can help (something like “Don’t be afraid to let us have it. We’ve got thick skin.”). Another way to help is to add some anonymity to the feedback process.”
Payne reflects on how intensive this feedback process can be. “As an Account Manager at Search It Local, I’ve spent more time on the phone in a year than I have with my Mother across my whole lifetime (which is saying something, my Mom loves a chat).”
*Editor’s note: Want to stay on top of your customer service conversations? Do just that with the HelpScout Mailbox Dashboard, and track the quality of service conversations with happiness and productivity reporting.
The process has made Payne realize, “asking questions that require ‘on a scale of 1 to 10’ answers can be limiting. If you tell me your satisfaction level is an 8 out of 10, that doesn’t tell me where those 2 missing points went, or what could have improved your experience, or how we could better support you moving forward.” Payne prefers this approach to other approaches like a recommendation, which may introduce bias. The “How has your life changed” phrasing removes the business relationship from the equation more effectively.
Sometimes the numbers can speak for themselves. Though not the most widely used form of seeking customer feedback, many of our experts find benefits in the 0-10 scale, including Hamna Amjad of GX, who said this approach “will help them in filling up the survey faster, and will show you their satisfaction level for your product/services and experience with you.”
Speed translates to results for Amjad. “Since the average person gets distracted in 8 seconds, it’s essential to keep your survey brief, simple and give them a quick way to respond.”
Amjad also supplements the scale with open answers. “You must have open text questions where customers can share their honest opinions with you.” According to Amjad, You must ask them: “What else would you like us to know?” or “What can we do to better serve you?”
If you want to remove bias from the process, using the buffer of a hypothetical question can be a great way to do it. Randi Grant of Perfect Patients proposes a scenario and lets the customer take it from there. “Imagine we overheard you talking to a colleague about why [insert company name] was a success for your business. What exactly would we hear you say?” Says Grant, “This question encourages the customer (in our B2B business) to put their feedback into complete thoughts, rather than just listing out bullet points and opens the door for more robust feedback. Plus, it plants the seed that they should be talking to their colleagues about us ;)” Very clever!
Nathan Schokker of Talio also uses this approach. “Our business is in commercial property services and we’ve often found it hard to get useful info given our services are often unseen or quickly forgotten about after completion.”
“Two questions we’ve posed via survey forms (both times as just single queries) to great effect and feedback are: 1. If our cleaners found your site broken into, glass smashed everywhere and the site in an awful state at 3 am, would you want us to call you; let your security services deal with it; or, have us sort it from start to finish?
2. Our team always finds dirty tea towels, empty toilet rolls & leaking taps whilst working. Would it be best for us to report this to you or note it and fix it ASAP?”
“In both instances,” says Schokker, “we provide an open format response rather than a multiple-choice or yes/no options, and we’ve seen incredible and detailed replies. These have become client references where applicable, and give us amazing insights to our clients and how they approach their properties and our services. It also allows the team to handle individual accounts more effectively. “Where clients insist on faults being reported first, they tend to take much, much more managing, whereas those who want stuff handled and fixed tend to be much easier to work with and manage.”
Money talks — and if you listen, customers won’t walk! That’s the rationale of pricing-based surveys, and it can be extremely effective.
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird, for example, likes to get straight to the bottom line when seeking feedback. “I think that today everyone is influenced by the price point,” Loubier explains. “After all, you don’t want to lose a big customer over $20. Be sure to ask if your customers feel the price point is fair, if it in any way affected their decision, and why. This can help you develop great strategies for attaining new customers”
This suggestion from Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada was unlike the responses from any of our other experts. We’ll let Stevens explain.
“One time, a client told me something that literally changed the way I operate my business. He was paying me to update the homepage of his website and I was telling him the other things I could do for him to help him out. He stopped me at one of those services and said, “I only budgeted for the home page but if you did that for me right now I would never use another web developer again.”
Now, Stevens routinely asks, “What can I do for you right now for free to make you never hire another web development agency.”
As Stevens explains, “I don’t always get fantastic answers and some people tell me that they can’t promise that. However, I have gotten a few requests from clients that were extremely easy to fulfill. This turned a handful of clients into the most loyal clients I have ever had and increased the number of referrals I received by a lot.”
As you can see, asking for customer feedback is important, and depending on your goals for the data, what you ask can be just as important. No matter your goals — customer retention, product road-mapping, or process-building — having an excellent, scalable feedback process in place and asking the right customer feedback interview questions can ensure your business keeps growing, and keeps relevant with that growing customer base.
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