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When you need to ask follow-up questions

Learn more insightful, specific data from your surveys by using follow-up questions.

Sometimes you need extra information to understand what someone is communicating to you. This can be during a conversation or while taking a survey. The best way to obtain additional information is through follow-up questions. 

Whether you’re reaching out to customers, talking to survey participants to dig deeper into their responses, or generating automatic follow-up questions in a survey, you need to ask the right questions at the right time to get the information you need. Any type of survey question can prompt a follow-up question.

Let’s take a look at how you can use follow-up questions in your business.

Follow-up questions are used to unearth more profound insights into previously provided information. In other words, they are questions you ask to expand or clarify an answer or information you’ve been given. 

In a conversation, follow-up questions will enhance your communication flow. It lets the person you’re talking with know that you don’t completely understand their initial answer and need them to go into detail. The answers give you clarity and may prompt further questions. Asking for more information also communicates your interest in the person you’re talking with and shows them that you’re paying attention.

After a particular event or interaction, follow-up questions asked via an online survey provide insights that can be used to direct future events and assist in making informed decisions about strategic marketing plans, content marketing, product development, etc.

Within a survey, follow-up questions can be used to dig deeper into previous answers—using technology to prompt specific questions after certain answers are given. These follow-up questions are especially helpful if they are qualitative questions that collect information in the respondent’s own words.

There are several situations in which follow-up questions may prove to be enlightening and beneficial:

During the one to three months following a customer signing up for your service or purchasing your product, send survey questions as a follow-up to ensure your customer onboarding process is smooth and effective.

Example questions:

Was it easy to sign up for our service?

How would you rate your experience with our customer liaison team?

What could we have done to make your onboarding experience more enjoyable?

According to Microsoft, 90% of Americans use customer service to decide whether or not to do business with a company. With this in mind, you want to ensure that your customer service team provides the highest level of customer service. Sending follow-up questions after a customer service interaction will reveal your team’s strengths and weaknesses, areas where training is needed, and issues with your product or service offerings.

Example questions:

Did our customer support team solve your problem today?

How satisfied are you with the technical support you received?

What could we have done better during your customer service experience?

If you have an online business, you’re probably painfully aware of abandoned carts. Customers put items in their online “shopping cart” and then leave your website without going through the checkout process.

In many cases, this is related to overly complicated checkout procedures. Evaluate your transaction experience through questions for customers who complete the checkout process.

Example questions:

Please use the following scale to rate your purchase experience.

Did you experience difficulty with completing your transaction?

What can we do to make the purchase process easier?

It’s critical to understand why a customer decides to take their business elsewhere. Ask follow-up questions after a cancellation to find out why they chose to cancel. The answers will help you take steps to prevent other customers from leaving. 

Example questions:

What is the primary reason you are canceling your service?

Are you using a similar service from another company? What is it?

What could we do to influence your decision and reconsider canceling?

It’s crucial that follow-up questions be asked in ways that meets your goal of collecting more information and gaining insights that are valuable. 

To ask the right questions, keep these tips in mind:

A common mistake during conversation is using the time someone else is speaking to think about what you’re going to say next rather than actually listening. Pay attention, engage with the speaker, and ask meaningful questions. If your questions are thoughtful, follow-up questions will come naturally and enhance the conversation.

Link your questions to what the speaker is saying, and strive to be an active part of the conversation. This will engage the person you’re talking with and prompt them to elaborate and possibly be more authentic. It helps to remember that, in a conversation, you’re talking with someone, not to someone. You should be listening as well as talking.

We’ve all had conversations where a speaker seems reluctant to talk about a topic. They approach it vaguely and try to divert your attention. Now, this is appropriate if the topic is personal or a sensitive subject. However, if you are interviewing someone and you need their views on a topic that’s relevant to your business, rephrase with a follow-up question and ask for specifics.

If you’re looking for clarity in a conversation, ask the speaker to elaborate. 

Use the following phrases to prompt them to provide more substantive information:

  • Tell me more about (subject).
  • What do mean by (quote from speaker)?
  • How did you come by that knowledge?
  • I don’t quite follow.

If you don’t get the answer to your original question, ask it another way. Restate the question to follow up.

Example:

Initial question: What do you consider to be your main strengths and weaknesses?

Follow-up question: What is an example of when you had to deal with your weakness at work?

Follow-up question: Tell me about a similar project, how you handled it, and the outcome.

Each follow-up question, in this case, is more specific. You’re narrowing the focus to get to an honest, specific answer.

We’ve provided examples of follow-up questions throughout this article, but let’s look at some specific situations.

Examples of using follow-up questions:

  • In a conversation, your employee says that they really like the employee perks program in your workplace. Gain more detailed insights into their values and build on the flow of the conversation with questions like these:
    • Specifically, what parts of the program do you like?
    • What are your favorite perks?
    • What perks do you think we should add?
    • Are there any perks that don’t appeal to you?
  • A customer leaves a poor feedback rating for your restaurant. You could ask follow-up survey questions to determine exactly why they gave the unfavorable rating. Find out why they were dissatisfied by sending them a survey asking:
    • How would you rate the service you received during your visit?
    • How would you rate the quality of the food?
    • What would have made your visit better?
  • Your online survey includes a question about customers’ top three brands of ketchup. If yours is selected, you set up your survey to generate a question asking what they like about it. This is available through the use of our Carry Forward Responses feature. This feature allows you to customize follow-up questions that are tailored to respondents’ answers. Take a look at our video to learn more. Additional questions could include: 
    • What do you like about this product?
    • How would you rate the flavor?
    • Please rank your top three brands in order of preference.
  • A customer purchases a mobile phone case from your online store. To find out how they feel about their purchase, you could ask these questions in a follow-up survey:
    • Which of these words best describes our product/service?
    • What three characteristics would you like to see from the product in the future?
  • You’ve just introduced a new product into the market. You’d like to know how it meets the needs of your customers. A follow-up survey could ask:
    • What problem are you trying to solve with our product?
    • What features would you like to see in future products?
  • A customer receives a post-customer support experience survey and indicates they were dissatisfied with the service they received. A follow-up question using Carry Forward could ask:
    • What could we do to make you satisfied with our service?
    • Why did you choose this rating?

Remember, if you aren’t sure what to ask in a survey, you can use the SurveyMonkey Question Bank. This bank includes thousands of questions that have been written by survey experts. Take a look at some survey question examples before you get started.

Don’t settle for getting less than all of the information you need. Ask follow-up questions in conversations, after events or transactions, during interviews, etc. Remember, you can even build follow-up questions into your SurveyMonkey surveys!

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