Whether they’re using your product or service every day or are new users, your customers are your most critical sources of information — good and bad. Once they feel that their voices are being heard, they can also become your company’s biggest evangelists, which in turn will improve retention and acquisition rates.

And who on your team talks to them the most? Your front-line staff. What they say — and what questions they ask — matters greatly.

Below, 10 entrepreneurs from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) share the questions that the best sales and customer service representatives ask their customers to foster loyalty and open dialogue.

1. How can I help you?

Too often sales people jump right into the pitch, without understanding what the customer wants. It’s a waste of time for both parties and you can lose your customer’s interest by boring them with details of an unwanted product or service. Get the conversation started with “How can I help you?” and then lead from there.--Josh Sprague, Orange Mud

2. How can we provide you a better service?

It’s always good to ask for feedback from your customers, but many companies will beat around the bush and ask indirect questions when seeking feedback. Asking the customer what you can do to provide a better service opens the door to a truthful reply. You are giving them complete control and direction — there is no better feedback than from your current customers — which demonstrates how much you value their feedback.--Jonathan Long, Market Domination Media

3. What is your No. 1 pain point?

If you ask enough customers what their No. 1 issue is that they want solved, you will see obvious patterns emerging. It may only take asking 50 customers to see what you (actually) need to offer your customers, versus what you might think they need. We have learned so much about the holes in our product and service offerings using this one technique — it’s real market research!--Alex Miller, PosiRank LLC

4. What are you hoping to get out of our call/meeting today?

When you ask this question, you are unveiling each customer’s specific needs. This allows you to cater your response with the product or service that fits those needs. Asking open-ended questions will provide a gateway into learning more about your customers and get them talking. The key here is to listen and understand.--Humberto Farias, Concepta

5. Why did you choose us?

If the person is already a customer, you may want to understand why they chose to work with you. Was it your pricing? Your knowledge? Who were you up against at decision time? Having this answer will help you hone in on what you need to do more of.--Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

6. Why now?

An important question to ask is “Why now?” or “What made you decide to do this today?” We often find that our customers have been thinking about this decision for some time. It’s essential to know what sparked them to act on it today so we can get a better understanding of the specific benefits they are looking to receive.--Thomas Minieri, Planet Ballroom International, Inc.

7. If money and time were no object, what would you decide?

At ZinePak, we often work with clients whose creativity has been stifled and a “get it done” attitude is rampant. We create an outlier to this environment by getting an idea of a customers “pie in the sky’” idea. While the ultimate fantasy might not be possible, we try to deliver as close to it as possible. Consider it the business version of “The Look for Less.”--Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

8. On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?

There was an entire book written called “The Ultimate Question” that focuses on this simple question. If a user rates you as 9-10, they are extremely likely to tell people about you; 7-8 means they’re neutral; and anything below 6 means they are likely to talk negatively about your company. With word-of-mouth being amplified by social media, it’s vital for companies to focus on getting scores of 9s and 10s.--Adam Keune, Higher Learning Technologies(HLT)

9. What are your business goals for this year?

When you find out what your customers’ goals are, you’ll understand where they’re coming from and you’ll be able to recommend things that will actually be useful for them. For sales reps, that means opportunities to upsell your product and position yourself as a helpful resource. For service reps, that’s another opportunity to go beyond the customer’s stated problem in being helpful.--Jared Brown, Hubstaff

Published on: Aug 31, 2015