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Customer Corner

Asking Questions
A few weeks ago, I had several chores to do on a Saturday morning.

My first stop was a lumber yard for materials that I needed to construct shelving in my basement.

When I told the salesperson the various pieces of lumber I needed, he said, "What are you building?"

I told him my project.

He then said, "How are you building the shelves? Would you make me a sketch?"

I made a quick drawing, and he proceeded to ask me more questions, which I answered. He then made several suggestions that would make the shelves easier to build.

It also eliminated some material and therefore reduced my cost.

Since then, I have gone back to the store for another project, and again received service in the same caring manner.

My second stop that morning was a tire store. I needed two tires for my car.

As I waited for my turn, I noticed a large poster behind the sales counter. The poster read as follows:

What kind of car do you drive?

Where do you drive-city or suburbs?

Do you tow a trailer or a boat?

Do you drive short or long distances?

Do you use expressways or local streets?

How often do you rotate your tires?

There were many other questions that were listed on the poster.

When I made my purchase, the salesman asked me still more questions before he recommended various tire sizes and prices that would match my car and my driving habits.

Why can't we ask questions as they do in these businesses?

There was an article in BANK MARKETING MAGAZINE (June, 1990) that focused on the customer service representative and teller's ability to sell or cross-sell.

The author related his experience in visiting nine financial institutions. (He had accounts with four of them.)

Although he tried a variety of leading statements to solicit information from the respective employee, there was no attempt to sell or cross-sell one single product in any of the nine institutions!

What was the difference between the lumber yard, the tire company and the financial institutions?

The bankers didn't ask any questions.

It would seem the bankers were not interested in obtaining information that would benefit both the customer and the institution.

Asking questions may be difficult for some of us, because it may seem that we are prying into someone's private financial affairs. However, if questions are asked sincerely a customer will usually respond, and will realize what you are doing.

Many opportunities for additional business are missed because CSRs or tellers don't realize their potential to help customers. And when you help them-everyone benefits-both the customer and the institution.

If an institution has 50 tellers and each teller cross-sells just one customer a week, there is an opportunity for 2,600 annual sales!

If each opportunity results in $3,500 additional business (consumer loans, saving certificates, etc.) the institution has added $9,100,000 in new business-$9,100,000 from a very good source-your current customers!

How to do it? Ask the right questions! The following scenario may be helpful:

Teller: Mrs. Smith, I noticed that the balance in your savings account, after this deposit, is slightly over $20,000.

I want to let you know that we pay higher interest for longer term savings. Can I help you earn more money with us? OR

CSR: Mr. Miller, I noticed on your consumer loan application that you have a savings account with the XYZ Bank. Why not bring it to us? We can service all your financial needs!

In both these cases the bank employee shows concern for the customer, and asks for the business.

If they don't ask, they will never get the business.

If they do ask, the worst that can happen is that the person will say, "No"-not an earth shattering event!

However, by asking for the business, they develop a variety of possibilities of getting to know the customer and gaining additional depositor relationships.

Questions are a powerful means of controlling a conversation and gaining information.

Questions enable us to find out customers' needs and wants.

Questions are needed to solve problems.

Think of a time when you were introduced to a stranger, and within a few minutes you both were engaged in an enjoyable conversation.

How did it come about?

By asking questions!

Maybe you discovered an interest in the same hobby, works of art, books, community organizations, schools, etc. The more questions you asked, the more you learned about your new acquaintance.

Develop the skill of asking questions. When you realize that questions are a means of obtaining information that benefits both you and the customer, you are on your way to increasing business for your institution! Why not?

Copyright © 1990 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 1, No. 8, 8/90

First published on 08/01/1990

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