How to effectively prepare and ask questions to customers

    This article is written in collaboration with Peter Lion . Peter is vice president of Customer Success at Brightflag and co-founder of Customer Success Network.

    Every Customer Success Manager (CSM) should be good at building communication with its customers. This is a common skill, but it will require you to constantly work on a number of your sub-skills. One of which is the ability to effectively prepare and ask questions.

    In this article we will discuss this in detail. Let us examine the difference between effective and inefficient questions and offer a number of techniques that you can test immediately after reading.


    So let's start with the main question: “What does it mean to ask questions effectively and how to distinguish an effective question from an inefficient one?” Almost all first customer calls begin with questions. After all, this is the best way to identify the problem areas of the client and subsequently propose optimal solutions based on needs. Let's look at the attributes of an effective question:

    • It should be focused on specific information.

    The client’s response must contain accurate information about his problems or provide an understanding of the value that the client expects to receive from working with your company. (Always remember that any customer information must be recorded, so you can use it later when planning the next steps.)

    • It must be concise

    Usually, during a call with the Customer Success manager, the client wants to solve his problems. It is absolutely appropriate to ask questions at the very beginning of the conversation, but do not make your client feel like a participant in an endless survey.

    • Questions should not be repeated

    This item may seem obvious, asking the client the same questions over and over again is not a good idea. Perhaps the previous CSM or account manager left the company, and the client was transferred to the new manager. Or, let's say you just lost your notes that were made during the last conversation. Whatever the reason, the need to constantly answer the same questions will irritate the client. True, there are a few exceptions to the rules, certain questions need to be asked regularly throughout the work with the client. We will discuss them later.

    It is very important to have a list of questions prepared before the meeting or call. These questions must be relevant and structured so that you can get exactly the information you need. Prepare to make the conversation interesting, and the questions did not sound as if you had memorized them. If an in-person meeting with a client is not possible, then it is better to arrange a video call. Such a format, as a rule, wins over a regular telephone conversation.

    Peter Lyon

    3 key questions for each Customer Success Manager

    The areas of concern for companies doing business in different industries can vary greatly. Therefore, the issues of CSMs to customers should also be different. However, there are several mandatory questions that need to be asked to each client, in whatever field he does business. I recommend that you start a dialogue with your clients from the ones listed below and work with them on the basis of the information received.

    Question number 1. What results does your company plan to achieve with the help of our product / service?

    Companies buy your products and services for a specific reason. And usually it lies in the fact that the perceived value exceeds the price they pay for your product. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand this reason from day one. Do not be afraid to ask such a question - the client definitely has a reason, otherwise he would not have bought anything from you.

    Question number 2. What for you is an indicator of successful achievement of goals?

    Now you already have information about the goals of the client. And now it is very important to understand how the client will evaluate their implementation. For example, your client says that he wants to reduce the time spent on certain business processes in a company. You need a detailed description of this goal from the client: “I will consider the goal achieved if managers Peter, Daria and Maria from Department Y save 4 hours a week each due to your product.”

    Question number 3. How has our product already helped you?

    This question should be asked only to customers who already use your product or service. Why is it important? We all work in a highly competitive environment. Even if your company is currently leading the market, there is no guarantee that it will be able to hold first place in a year. You should have prepared a list of good arguments in case your clients think about moving to a competitor.

    Also, imagine that you worked closely with a specific employee at a client’s company for a long time (in Wrike, we call him “Champion”). You have a great relationship, and everything seems to be smooth. But then the champion leaves this company, and you have to start all over again with another employee who is not enthusiastic about your product or service or does not understand the value that he gives to his company. And you have such a case that there is evidence that your product or service has already shown its effectiveness to the client.

    Asking each of the above questions, you must take into account the views of different employees of the company, since their requirements for the results may differ significantly. Therefore, it is better to ask something like: “So, you want to achieve these goals. And what goals do your manager, senior management or board members pursue? ”

    Peter Lyon

    Additional questions

    There are also additional general questions that are suitable for customers from different industries. Answers to them will allow you to gather valuable information about the client’s business.

    • Which teams in your company do not use our product at the moment?

    It may seem a bit strange, but the answer to this question can potentially help to significantly increase the number of users of your product in this company. The next question may be: “Why don't these teams use the product?” And “What conditions need to be fulfilled for these teams to start using the product?”

    The key question to ask the client is: “What kind of details related to obtaining value from a product can you share with me?” - We think we know our product, however, our customers can use it in a completely different way from our ideas. Therefore, ask your customers to articulate the value that your product gives them. And always ask the question: “Why?” Suppose your client responds: “We can make reports to management in a shorter time.” And you keep asking for a more detailed answer. For example, “May I ask what these reports are? Have you received feedback from management on the quality of the reports? What key decisions were made based on the reports received? ”

    Peter Lyon

    • Do you need training on a product / service?

    One of the main reasons for unsubscribing the product from its low level of involvement in the processes of the organization. This may be due to a lack of product knowledge and understanding of application practices. Your tasks as a Customer Success Manager are at the same time assessing the level of knowledge about the product in the client’s company and offering a product training session or product introduction service.

    This is a great comment, and do not underestimate it. Just keep in mind that people prefer to perceive information differently. Offer them different options / formats - calls 1-1, live training, video materials, webinars, etc. Depending on which product you are offering, make sure that you have at least 2 super-users who are up to date on the upcoming features. And most importantly, get feedback / feedback from them.

    Peter Lyon

    Initial and recurring questions

    Of course, these are not all the questions that should be asked to the client. And many of them should be heard far more than once. Perform customer surveys on a regular basis. For example, 3 months after the initial acquaintance, you can repeat Question # 1 (about the goals that the client wants to achieve with the help of your product) to check whether the previously voiced tasks are relevant or additional goals have appeared. The frequency of such issues depends on the area and industry in which the company operates, as well as on the specifics of the market. So, the same question can be asked once a quarter, 2 times a year, etc.

    This point is important to take into account, since most businesses are forced to go through certain changes as they develop. Since we do not know what is happening inside the client’s company, many of his internal problems and strategic decisions will not be known to us. But still try to keep abreast of developments in the field of business of your client, in his market. If mergers or market failures are expected, do not be afraid to ask what this means and how you can help.

    Peter Lyon

    Effective Questions at Wrike

    If we talk about your own experience, then in Wrike all the CSMs ask customers both the above questions and many others on a regular basis. We conduct periodic "health checks" of clients, quarterly and annual business surveys in order to collect relevant answers to these questions. We place all the answers in the CRM cloud system, which allows us, if necessary, to quickly see the records of any conversation that we have ever had with a client.

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