When it comes to giving your clients exceptional service, it pays to embrace your curiosity. These are the questions you should ask to improve communication while creating loyal, repeat customers.
For consultants and freelancers of every stripe, "Why?" ought to be among your most frequently asked questions. My hairdresser is an expert in asking questions first, and acting later: If a client with long hair suddenly insists on shearing off her locks, he digs a little deeper to find out what's behind the request for a sudden change (99 per cent of the time, according to him, it's a breakup), and takes pains to understand the context before recommending a style that won't wind up causing its wearer remorse.
My firm's work, on the surface, looks pretty similar to any service-for-hire: Clients pay us to design and build their websites. But as the work of web design becomes more and more commodified, what we're really being hired for is our ability to advise our clients at a strategic level – that is, to respond to a request for a blog (or any other feature) with, "Why?"
It may sound like I'm asking my clients to justify themselves, but that's not my intent; I ask "why" out of a desire to do work that is of maximum benefit to them. And I know from experience how tempting it is, when faced with a challenge, to jump straight to a solution before considering the options or ramifications. I consider it my responsibility to ensure that my clients don't wind up with buyer's remorse.
"Why?" isn't the only question worth asking, of course: The rest of the journalist's arsenal comes in handy too. "Who's this for?" "How will you be using it?" "When do you need it done?" and so on – the more information you're able to draw out, the better positioned you'll be to advise your clients and help them decide.
The curiosity principle may be especially relevant for those in sales – heck, I met a salesperson at Best Buy a couple of weeks back who impressed me so much with the way she dug beyond my initial question to determine what I really needed, that I'll be seeking her out on every future visit. But increasingly, I rely on everyone on my team bringing a healthy dose of curiosity to their work. I want them to help our clients – and each other – make smarter decisions on a daily basis, and for that to happen they need to get curious and think critically.
Those two qualities – the two sides of "Why?" – are what sets a strategic advisor apart from someone who simply executes orders. So if you're wondering how to set your firm apart from the competition, I suggest you start by asking yourself where you could be getting more curious about your customers.