“Echo Questions” Help Get to the Heart of the Matter

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A triage nurse takes a call from a patient who says, “I’m not feeling well.” A quick assessment is needed to determine the next step for this patient. This person needs help to pinpoint the likely cause of the problem before any determination can be made about how the nurse can assist medically. The problem could be anything from an anxiety attack to simple dehydration to a major health crisis—this nurse really needs to get to the heart of the matter quickly. 

The story illustrates a common and challenging client service opportunity that begins by helping a customer communicate their needs. Everyone who delivers service as part of their job needs to be able to ask questions to help probe and determine needs. A variety of questioning techniques used effectively will pinpoint the needs of that customer. 
What about these next call scenarios? Do they sound familiar? 
“I want to talk to someone about my plan’s benefits.” Or how about, “I need to get some help with one of your product’s features.” open_ended_question
The central issue in each of those questions is not well defined, is it? Yet that’s the starting point for many requests for your assistance. Customers who reach out to front-line agents for information or guidance like this want that help to be quick and easy. Very often, one or two words in the customer’s initial statement will provide you with a springboard for being able to deliver that guidance. 

The Echo Question technique is an effective way to collect more information from the customer to get to the solution they seek. Echo Questions “mirror” or “reflect” back to the customer using their own words by turning their statement into a question to elicit more information. 

 Here’s how to ask an Echo Question:

  1. Repeat the last word or last few words spoken by the customer.
  2. Change the tone of your words from a statement to a question by raising the tone of your voice slightly at the end, and then
  3. Pause. Give the customer a chance to provide the information.


Customer, “We’re having problems with our paper pusher.” 
You, “Your paper pusher?” 
Customer, “Yeah, that automatic feeder on top of our copying machine.” You, “Oh, certainly, your document feeder. Sure, let’s get to work on getting that fixed.” 
 The Echo Question is a technique best suited to these ambiguous call situations because of the way the technique engages the customer in a conversation. This allows you to establish a rapport with the caller. This particular method of eliciting information by capturing the customer’s language and echoing it back is very engaging. Your responsiveness shows interest in and appreciation for the caller’s concerns. After all, who doesn’t like to feel appreciated? 
Another important outcome of the Echo Question technique is its potential for improving your First Call Resolution metrics. Outstanding customer care with first call resolutions is a building block for loyalty and most certainly generates good will and positive word of mouth about your brand. 
After resolving your caller’s initial issue remember to ask if there’s anything else the customer needs? Calls often come to us with one, primary concern but the caller, if asked, frequently will have at least a second issue or question. As you conclude the call, remember to let the client know that you were happy to help. Using your personality in a positive way extends good will and helps to deliver your special brand of outstanding service. 
Opportunities to exceed expectations in customer service sometimes come disguised in too little information about where to begin. Reach into your service tool kit for your “Echo Question” technique when you need to help a customer get you to the heart of the matter.


© We encourage you to distribute this message to colleagues. When you’re ready to empower your staff with proven customer service and team building skills, please let us know.