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Answering Questions Before Customers Ask

Improve the customer experience and boost sales by anticipating shoppers' wants and needs.

While it’s true you need to offer up great images and compelling descriptions of your items for sale, there are plenty of other questions and concerns that your customers might have. Rather than wait for them to ask—if they even bother to do so—you can easily seize the opportunity to make a sale by answering before they ask.

You don’t need to be a mind reader to do this. You simply need to anticipate the sorts of questions your customers will have, and then proactively address those matters, often to your customers’ surprise and delight. When you answer customers’ questions before they have to ask, you’ll complete more sales at a faster rate and with potential to gain a return customer, too. Here’s how.

Unasked questions could be missed sales

When you anticipate customers’ questions, you can tailor their shopping experience to their needs from the beginning

Have you ever been shopping—online or at brick-and-mortar stores—and left without buying simply because you couldn’t get the help or find information you needed? If this describes you, recognize that you’re like millions of other buyers who, likewise, shy away from asking questions or become flatly frustrated when they can’t easily get the help they want.

Shopping is about the experience as much as it’s about the products that are for sale. Some customers are quite comfortable shopping without assistance, provided they find the answers to their questions without having to engage someone for help. Other customers prefer interaction with a shopkeeper as a way to gain confidence about the store and the products being offered. Both sorts of customers have questions they want answered and, if they can’t get those answers easily without too much trouble, they might consider a purchase too risky or otherwise difficult, deciding to leave and shop elsewhere.

When you anticipate customers’ questions and provide the answers they need, as well as an easy way to get one-on-one help, if desired, you can tailor their shopping experience to their needs from the beginning. On the other hand, if you leave a customer to wander around too long without providing answers to their questions, they’ll usually wander away. These are sales ready to be made when you’re ready to provide service at the moment they enter your store.

Answer the unasked for unrivaled sales

So, understanding your customers’ needs for answers before they ask questions—if they will even bother to ask in the first place—here’s your approach to provide proactive information.

  • Start with FAQs that are conspicuously visible. If you understand the nature of your customers’ frequently asked questions, then begin their customer service experience with readily available answers. FAQs have become commonplace repositories for customers to utilize in online shopping experiences. Place a link to your FAQs within easy sight on every page of your online store. Answer basic questions about your products, your sales policies, additional fees (e.g. shipping), returns and exchanges and so on.

    Shoppers who prefer the self-service approach to their browsing and buying will appreciate these answers without having to ask for them first. And, for you, FAQs work to reduce your time spent tending to customers’ frequent questions, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the business.
    Provide easy-to-find links or information so customers can reach out to you

    As new questions arise more than once or twice from your customers, be sure to add these to your FAQs to keep them a living and growing service to your patrons.

  • Establish how your store is unique—maybe better—than would-be competitors. No doubt, you’re working hard to establish your business and your service method so you can effectively differentiate yourself from other sellers. Provide this information to your customers on an About Us page. Provide some history of how you’ve come to be an expert in what you offer, and how you determined that you could provide better service and better products—an overall better experience—to your shoppers. This up-front information helps your customers gain a sense of knowledge and comfort with you and your business, giving them more confidence as they decide whether they’ll buy from you.

  • Tell customers how they’ll benefit by shopping at your store. A key to success is letting customers know what’s in it for them. Customers want to feel they’ve stumbled upon an oasis of excellent goods, or great prices, or supreme service (or all three) when they find a new place to shop. If you have an excellent collection of goods, show those off immediately. If you’ve devised a super-intuitive checkout process and fast delivery method, let that shine! If you have a “no questions asked return guarantee,” shout it from the rooftops. Let customers know how they can immediately benefit by shopping with you and, chances are, they’ll be much more inclined to make a selection, or two or more.

  • Provide proof of your promises. Customer testimony can be your best ally in business. Share the good feedback from your other customers, letting new patrons know that they’re in good hands when they shop with you.

  • Don’t be afraid to admit to missteps. If you’ve had a dissatisfied customer who has taken exception to your goods or services, be comfortable about sharing that in your customer testimony, accentuating how you worked to make things right. In this way, you show you’re listening to your customers—all of them—and are committed to constantly improving your business and the positive shopping experience you strive to deliver. Customers love honesty and, if they can determine they’ve met an honest shopkeeper, they’ll be inclined to make a purchase.

When you show you understand your customers’ wants and needs, then deliver answers to their likely questions before they have to ask, shoppers will know you’re committed to their satisfaction. Remember, also, to provide easy-to-find links or information so customers can reach out to you whenever they need. Up-front answers are great, but keeping yourself available to provide even more help will surely boost your sales all year long.

About the author

Dennis L. Prince
Dennis L. Prince has been analyzing and advocating the e-commerce sector since 1996. He has published more than 12 books on the subject, including How to Sell Anything on eBay...and Make a Fortune, second edition (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and How to Make Money with MySpace (McGraw-Hill, 2008). His insight is actively sought within online, magazine, television and radio venues. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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