Dealing With Stupid Questions

Do you remember being told in school that there are no stupid questions? That every question someone asks is a good question, because it helps the understanding of both the individual and the other students in the class?

Although this may be true 90 percent of the time, the other 10 percent is a totally different story.

There’s a small minority of questions that are not so good. Well, I can’t really be that kind — they’re downright stupid questions. What makes them stupid is that they are asked by people who are not paying attention, didn’t bother to read the instructions, or are just in a situation that’s way over their heads.

This phenomenon is also true in the Internet world. Let’s talk about how, as a businessperson, you deal with customers who fall into that “definitely dim-witted” category.

Look in the Mirror

Do you ever hear the same question over and over from your clients? You may get frustrated and ask yourself why your customers keep asking the same stupid question over and over.

Well, the answer may be that you are not answering the question very well. When you hear multiple clients asking the same question, that’s a sure sign that you may need to examine your documentation, web site, or instructions a little more thoroughly.

If you have reviewed these items and everything seems clear to you, it may be time to get some insight from outside your company. Ask individuals who are not necessarily in your industry. Get help from someone who may be only tangentially connected. Or, get your mother’s opinion.

Ask a lot of different people and query them on how they would make this point crystal clear.

The other thing to do is to invoke the “Jimmy Rule.” The Jimmy Rule comes from a place where I used to work. When we launched something new, we would ask Jimmy, one of our fellow co-workers, to do the new task at hand with the instructions we’d created.

You’re probably wondering what’s so special about Jimmy that he was the barometer of how well something was documented. Well, Jimmy happened to be a bit dull-witted. He lacked all semblance of common sense, and many of us thought he was a little touched. But he did have one great redeeming value. If Jimmy could accomplish the new task at hand, we were certain that 99 percent of the audience could, too.

We all have “Jimmys” in our life. We just need to use them for their God-given calling.

Sometimes Customers Really Are Stupid

Even if your web site is the most precisely articulated creation, your product is as easy as finger painting, and your documentation is as simple to read as if it was written by Hemingway himself, you will still get those questions from clients that make you want to pull your hair out.

This is that small minority we are writing off as just plain stupid clients. But the great thing is that stupid clients tend to be quite loyal to anyone who can answer their questions.

If your company demonstrates patience and can handle these individuals, you may earn yourself some loyal and valuable customers. The fact is that many of these individuals have already worn out their welcome somewhere else. If you can make them happy, you will probably be rewarded for your efforts.

Stupid questions are part of life and part of customer support. How a company deals with these questions is the difference between good customer support… and a nervous breakdown for the customer support manager.

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