Failure to Engage Customers Can Be Costly

This week I went to a new bank to open a savings account. After telling the bank teller why I was there, I was told that someone would be with me shortly. As I took a seat, I noticed the tellers give each other a high-five and say, “That’s two new accounts already!” Boy, did I feel special.

Soon, the manager emerged to shake my hand and lead me to his office. When I told him I wanted to open a saving account, he smiled and asked with which bank I had my checking account. Confused by the question, I cautiously explained that my other accounts were with different banks.

With that, his onslaught of questions began: “How many different accounts do you have? Are they all completely free? Do they offer free checks? Do they offer online access to your accounts?” He practically began foaming at the mouth.

With the interrogation complete, the vomit session began. He boasted of his company’s interest rates, size, experience, and over-all greatness. After about five minutes, he was finally ready to open my account and, for the first time, asked for my name. Nice move, but a little late.

Like many salespeople, this manager completely missed the boat. He lost his chance to engage me as a real person. He never seized his opportunity to get to know who I am, what brought me into his bank and what I thought my banking needs were. To put it simply, he never asked the right questions.

With engaging questions, the bank manager could have eased the tension, showcased his expertise, and allowed me to share my thoughts and experiences. Instead, he interrogated me about my other accounts and bragged about his bank’s features. What did he expect me to say? “You have online banking? I didn’t know that was even available yet! Let me go and close out my other accounts and bring you all of my money.” Why not? I had known him for a total of eight minutes.

He should have started with a simple, “Welcome. I’m glad you chose our branch, but I have to ask you, why are we lucky enough to earn your business today?” What a great way to set the tone, make me feel important, and get me talking.

Then he could have followed with, “What is most important to you when choosing a bank?” This question certainly would have allowed me to share EXACTLY what was important to me. He would have quickly learned that I could care less about how big his bank is, how low his penalty fees are, and all the other stuff that I had the unpleasant experience of sitting through.

You see, there is nothing more personal to someone than his or her money. If he wanted me to trust him with MY money, he should have asked engaging questions to really get to know me. With good questions, he would have encouraged me to talk about my problems and frustrations with my current bank accounts. My responses would have helped him get to know me and create a sales presentation uniquely for me.

If you want a customer to trust YOU with their money, you must do the same thing. Great questions set the tone and get the customer talking about what is most important to THEM, instead of making them listen to what is most important to you.

Your questions are the only way to grab your customer by the brain, evoke emotions, elicit interest, and uncover the information you need to speak intelligently. Great questions make the customer stop to think before giving an answer. They are asked in terms of the customer, but encourage responses that are in terms of you and your company. The truth is, if you ask better questions, you’ll make more sales.

Tom Richard conducts seminars on sales and customer service topics nationwide. Tom is also the author of Smart Salespeople Don’t Advertise: 10 Ways to Outsmart Your Competition With Guerilla Marketing, and publishes a free weekly ezine on selling skills titled Sales Muscle. To subscribe to this free weekly ezine go to

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