How many times do you ask questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no?” I’d guess fairly frequently.
On a recent flight on United Airlines, I observed the flight attendant talking with passengers in the exit rows. She asked one gentleman if he knew how to open the exit door. He answered in the affirmative. Now, where I had seen other flight attendants accept that and move on, this particular attendant added a follow-up question: “How would you open the door?”
The passenger stumbled for words and muttered something that obviously wasn’t correct. In response, the flight attendant kindly corrected him, explained how to open the door, and moved on to the next passenger.
The concept of opening the door was solidified in the mind of the passenger, and the flight attendant knew the door could be opened. This accord and peace of mind were made possible by simply asking a follow-up question.
During your interactions with customers, you’ll often need to know if they understand a concept, agreement, or product. Don’t assume they know what they need. Ask them and find out!
On many airline flights, I’ve seen countless flight attendants simply ask: “Are you willing to perform the duties I’ve described?” This simple “yes” or “no” answer is insufficient to guarantee the passenger really understands her role and can perform it effectively.
Ask your customers to restate or explain back to you the concepts you’ve discussed. This way you can check for alignment between what you want them to understand and what they profess to understand.
Understanding Leads to Success
When both you and your customers are on the same page, you have a higher probability of success. Asking a follow-up question and waiting for a customer to explain matters to you is a small investment to ensure that confusion is eliminated.
On a plane after an emergency landing, disaster could result if the person on the exit row doesn’t know how to open the door. Likewise, in your business, when customers don’t understand products, policies, processes, or even their contract, you may have a disaster on your hands: confusion, rework, and possible ill feelings.
Help prevent future problems by seeking clarification of understanding with your customers today.