Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Sometimes Customers Don’t Know the Right Questions to Ask

My brother, Rusty Hyken, was on a trip to Utah with his wife and two dogs. It’s a leisurely three-day drive for them. He made their hotel reservations, and for each hotel they planned to stop at on the way to Utah he asked, “Is your hotel dog-friendly?” All of them said, “Yes.” But to his surprise, while checking into one of the hotels he was told there would be a $120 charge for the dogs to stay in his room. This was a surprise as he called and specifically asked about dogs, and the hotel never mentioned the fee for the dogs.

So, I did some checking. Apparently, there are many dog-friendly hotels, and most do not charge fees. The Starwood Hotels and Kimpton Hotels are just two of the many hotels that don’t charge for pets and are proud of their pet-friendly policy. Kimpton will actually provide fish in your room if you crave the companionship of a pet. (Really!)

Now, I totally understand the fee for a dog. Not all dogs are “hotel trained,” which could lead to an accident on the carpet, which takes more time and costs more money to clean. Yet, some hotels will recognize this effort and cost as a small price to pay for a positive reputation among pet lovers.

All of this leads to the point of the article. My brother didn’t ask the right question. He asked if the hotel was dog-friendly. He didn’t ask if there was a charge. In fairness to him, he’s stayed at many hotels with his dogs, and this was the first to charge a fee.

When he checked in, the conversation with the hotel clerk was contentious. My brother didn’t want to pay the fee. The hotel clerk asked my brother, “I know you asked if we were a dog-friendly hotel, but did you ask if we charged for dogs?”

Are you kidding me! That’s exactly what my brother thought, too. So, he asked to speak to the manager.

The manager came out and had a nice conversation with my brother. He also asked, “Did you ask if there was an additional charge for the dog?” When my brother started to get upset, the manager informed him that he was not asking to make a case for charging him the fee. The manager wanted to know the conversation so he could teach his team to handle future pet-friendly inquiries a different way.

Many of you who read my work or watch my videos know about my concept to Ask the Extra Question. Sometimes a customer says one thing but means something else. So, asking an extra question – or two or three – can help you understand what a customer really wants. For example, when a customer says, “I need this quickly,” ask the extra question, “How quickly do you need it?” Your concept of quickly may be different than your customer’s expectation.

Yet, the situation with my brother was different. The answer the hotel reservationist gave him on the phone was the exact answer to his question. However, he didn’t ask the right question. And, that is the point of this lesson. My brother, as a guest, could have – if he knew to – asked an extra or different question. However, maybe the reservationist should have asked the extra question for him.

Truly customer-focused people ask their customers at least one extra question to ensure they understand their customers. They also ask questions on behalf of their customers, because their customers don’t always know what questions to ask.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

Save

Save

 
  1. Such an important point, Shep! When I talk with our quality assurance folks here at FCR, I always have a question about “Did we answer the questions the customer didn’t even know to ask?”

  2. This story is a great reminder of the difference between a transactional and customer-focused approach to service. A transactional employee just answers the questions asked. Customer-focused employes wants their customers to have a great experience, so they follow your advice and work hard to understand what customers really want to know.

    • Thanks Jeff! Glad you enjoyed the article. You may remember from the ICMI speech, the “extra question” is one of my favorite concepts to talk about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>