Customer service is one of the most divisive topics when it comes to the Zimbabwean business landscape. With good reason of course. Customers have expectations. Businesses have expectations. Customers have expectations. And sometimes the expectations of both or either side are left unmet. This causes a lot of friction. One of the sources of this is of course a simple communication problem. Many times people are not able to communicate what they mean. This is not a matter of being deceptive but a matter of not being able to express themself. There are questions your customers will ask you which may not mean exactly what the plain words mean. Let’s look at examples of these and how to tackle them.

What are the options?

Having been a customer many times in my life this is one that really frustrates me. The answer I get to it that is. When a customer asks you  “what are the options”, especially when they have had the opportunity to see the options, rest assured they are not asking you to reiterate the options. This usually represents a customer who wants to understand the value proposition your products offer. Value isn’t always apparent to you but trusts that it is what the customer wants to see. They want to know what value they receive with the different options available. So instead of rattling off answers like we have the number 7 on special respond with something like “our number 7 special has a 100% flame-grilled beef burger, 2 pieces of authentic Southern fried chicken and a fresh garden salad”.

How much is it?

Another question you will get a lot of from customers is the question as to how much an item costs. To salespeople who don’t quite understand their craft, this may look like a signal that the prospect is ready to buy and hence they push for the order immediately and are surprised when they fail to close. Those with experience will tell you that is not a buy signal at all but rather the process of qualification. The prospect wants to know if they can afford the product or to put it correctly if your price qualifies for their budget or expectation. If you have encountered this problem and your products are a bit on the pricey side you can overcome this by answering the question and stating the value. For example, you would answer by saying “the number 3 special costs 5 dollars and gives you 2 burgers and chips”.

How do I get it?

When a potential customer asks “how do I get it” many would make the mistake of thinking this question is actually about how they will receive the product. In service environments, it is easier to identify what it actually is. The question you are really being asked is what the customer needs to do on their end to get the product, whether good or service. So what you need to do in this case is address the requirements on their side so that they are prepared for the process and get everything ready on their side. Or if they lack a requirement this is the moment they will become aware of it. Make sure not to leave out anything especially where these things would disqualify them from being eligible for the product.

What’s the process?

This question can often be misinterpreted as being equivalent to the aforementioned “how do I get it” question. To be fair a lot will depend on the wording so it may not come in the exact words you see here. You could be asked “what happens next”, “how does it go” or something of similar meaning. In this case, it’s important to clearly identify that what the prospect would like to know is what is going to happen on your side of the process. They may also want to know what needs to happen on their side but given that this is in their control it’s probably not an issue. It’s what they don’t control, your end of the process. So please answer this question in terms of turnaround times on your end. Something like “after you submit all requirements expect a response in 5 days, if there is a problem you will hear from us before then”.

There are so many times when a question isn’t asked clearly and there are opportunities to misinterpret it. Hearing what’s not being said will help you and your sales force or customer service team do a better job of meeting customer needs and converting to sales.