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The Question Doctor...
The Cure for the Common Question

Why is it important that we listen to what customers are saying about our business?

This should be an easy question for most candidates for managerial or supervisory positions to answer. What is being requested is the theoretical basis for distributing customer satisfaction surveys or conducting focus groups. The answer is readily available in management and customer service books that anyone can pick up in any library or bookstore. Unfortunately, knowing that listening to customers is important, and even how to listen, is not enough. Is the candidate able to do it? Can she use the information collected to improve how things are done? Where is the evidence? Even a complete answer will leave the interviewer guessing whether the candidate can translate theory into practice.

Better Question: How would you go about listening to customers’ opinions? What would you do with the information you collect?

Where these questions fall short is that they are based on two assumptions: first, that there is agreement on the importance of listening to customers; and second, that there is commitment to improve how things are done. Building interview questions based on assumptions is like building a house on sand. Neither makes for a very sound foundation.

The answers to these questions may provide insight into how the candidate believes she will listen to customers (or, at least, believes how the interviewer would like her to listen) as well as how she might use the information that is collected.

Even Better Question: We believe that we can improve what we do by listening to customers and find out what they are thinking. Describe how you have listened to customers. What did you learn? How did you use this information to improve your practices?

These questions are based on some beliefs that are givens in the interviewer’s organization. The interviewer is very clear about what will be expected of the person who is hired. Some things are non-negotiable. What the interviewer wants to know is: Has the candidate done this before? How did she do it? And when it comes to assessing the response: How well does the candidate’s past performance has done fit with what the company believes is best practice?

During his Interview Right to Hire Right seminar, Nelson Scott works with participants to develop and ask questions that will yield the high quality information needed to make the right hiring decisions.


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A professional trainer, speaker, and consultant since 1995, Nelson Scott works with organizations that are committed to making the right hiring decisions, developing and retaining productive staff, and strengthening relationships with customers.  Learn more by visiting or e-mailing


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