Portions of the following blog are excerpts from our book, The Effortless Experience

That title probably caught your attention, so without making you wonder a single second longer, here is the worst question a service rep can ask:

“Have I fully resolved your issue today?”

This is actually one of the most commonly asked questions at the end of a customer service interaction—and there are several variations of it too (e.g., “is there anything else I can do for you today?”).

File this question under the “innocuous but egregious” label.

What’s concerning isn’t so much the question itself, but the response it usually prompts, which is “yes, I think so…”, which then leads the rep to quickly close the call and move onto the next customer in queue. But while the rep is moving on, the customer is often left wondering… “WAS there something else the rep could have done for me? DID they actually solve the thing I was trying to solve?”

Guess what happens next? That’s right…they call back, or write a new email, or start a new chat—frequently because the issues wasn’t, in fact, fully resolved at all. We’ve all had experiences like these:

“So I tried to make that error message go away based on what the rep told me yesterday, and that seemed to work at the time…but now I’ve got this other message.”

“I just opened my invoice, and I think the credit that I called about last week was applied, but I can’t really tell…”

“You told me I would get the refund check shortly, but it’s been three days and I still haven’t seen it, so I thought I’d better check in.”

A Better Way Forward

At the risk of being cliché, customers don’t know what they don’t know. Here at Challenger, we’d argue that it’s really the responsibility of the company to make the next suggestions proactively (e.g., “while I have you on the line, I’d like to make you aware of X related issue”). This is the concept of next issue avoidance (aka forward resolution), which is really all about looking around the corner on behalf of the customer to help them anticipate next steps, next questions, or next problems. When the rep asks a customer if they have fully resolved their issue, it places a lot of onus on the customer and also introduces a seed of doubt that the rep themselves doesn’t actually believe they have resolved the issue!

A client recently posed this question to us on the topic: “What if there aren’t opportunities to provide forward resolution information? What’s the best closing question a rep should ask then?” I would suggest that reps could close with something like “have I answered all of your questions?” or “do you have any additional questions for me?”, which lifts that burden from the customer of trying to figure out whether their issue has been resolved. These questions are also appropriate in situations where the rep has not resolved the issue (and both the customer and the rep know it).

Ultimately, organizations should resist the urge to mandate a single “approved closing” (and please, please, please do not put such a thing on your QA evaluation). If it is necessary to suggest something for reps to use as a closing, try to find several acceptable closing options (better yet: let the reps brainstorm their own list that will sound most authentic). Then, let the reps decide what to use in the moment, as we know customers can hear scripted service, and it drives up their perception of effort. Furthermore, if reps are being forced to use a phrase that doesn’t make sense in all situations, customers will see right through that. For example, I once listened to a call from one of our insurance clients where the customer called to (angrily) cancel their auto policy, only to have the rep close the call with “as always, thanks for being a loyal customer” because it was required on the QA form. We can avoid these uncomfortable moments by simply letting reps use a little bit of situational judgment. I’m sure that rep would readily agree that it wasn’t the right comment at the right time.

Lauren Pragoff

Lauren Pragoff

Lauren Pragoff is Senior Vice President for the Global Client Success team at Challenger. She leads a team of professionals who are dedicated to demonstrating client impact and ensuring they receive value from Challenger and Effortless Experience products and services. The client success team is focused on anticipating customer needs, providing specific advice to the client, and driving outcomes for the sales and customer service teams we serve. Lauren was also a principal contributor to the 2013 book, The Effortless Experience (Penguin Books).