Probing Questions for Customer Service & Sales Teams

Gladly Team

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5 minute read

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Probing questions for customer service and sales

Probing questions are typically asked by those old, wise teachers trying to get their students to understand something in school, or from parents trying to get their kids to fess up to something.

They’re useful because they get to the core of an issue without actually stating what that issue is, thereby allowing the individual to figure out the answer on their own.

In sales, probing questions are often used to get customers to think about how a product or service will be useful in their life without explicitly stating why they need a product. This is much more effective than simply telling a customer the value of a product because it allows them to go through the thought process on their own.

Let’s take a look at why probing questions are useful in sales and how they can be applied to your customer service strategy.


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Probing questions 101

In order to develop effective probing questions, there are three major things to consider about the customer:

  1. First, you need to identify the benefits or improvements that a product or service will bring to your customers.
  2. Second, for each of those benefits, identify what problem that product or service is solving and how it helps the buyer avoid that problem.
  3. Finally, for each product or service, anticipate the specific types of problems that will lead a customer to understand the benefit of your goods and services on their own accord.

This final point is all about framing: if you have the best all-purpose-cleaning product in the world, but you choose a very specific example to demonstrate its use (say some composite material that lines the interior of a boat), then the example might be lost on your customers. Anticipating their problems and leading your questions toward those problems is the best strategy for this.

By identifying these three things, you’ve effectively set yourself up to know the benefits of a product, the problem it solves, and the best examples to provide your customers so they can make the connection on their own.

Probing questions in sales

A customer-centered approach that re-shifts the focus on the customer is central to asking probing questions in sales. Instead of allowing customers to explain to you the benefits of a product, sales people often try to fill the void and tell their customers directly why they need a product.

This is actually a mistake that doesn’t allow for customers to understand the benefits of the product or service on their own, and this kind prescriptive approach increases the chance that a sales person will lose their audience. It is far more engaging for a customer to work through the benefits on their own than to be passively told those benefits.

What a sales representative needs to do is anticipate the needs of a customer and guide their customers to seeing the benefits of a product by asking them open-ended and probing questions. The idea here is to make the buyer see the benefit of a product or service before you have to explain it to them.


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Probing questions in customer service

When it comes to customer service, there are a number of benefits that probing questions provide.

Rather than relying on automated response systems, probing questions remove that unnecessary step of the support process so that customers can explain what their issue is directly to the customer service representative.

Asking a customer “How can I help you today?” allows customers to engage in the customer support process as opposed to pressing a button on their phone that automates this step. It’s the first step to building rapport and allowing your agents to anticipate what their problem is and the kind of questions that lead customers to identify their own solutions.

Asking, “What do you plan to use it for?” shows interest on your side, and it allows customers to think through what else they might need. This is a great strategy for not just solving customer-service related problems, but also for setting up cross-selling and up-selling strategies.

Finally, probing questions that focus more on the human aspect of the customer can lead to more personable and amiable interactions. These kinds of questions lead to connections that make lasting impressions, positive customer experiences, and life-long customers.

Probing Questions: Conclusion

Whether you’re in sales or customer service, the benefits of asking probing questions are plentiful.

With Gladly’s cutting-edge software, customer service heroes will have access to unique customer profiles, customer purchase history, and even conversation history so that your agents will be ready to understand a customer’s needs before the point of contact.

These unique features, along with smart canned responses powered by AI, will provide customer service heroes with everything they need to work with customers in the most radically personalized and human manner.

Try Gladly today.