The Oddball Question

Alan Belniakbusiness, GeneralLeave a Comment

The oddball question is the outlier (as seen on in the past week, I’ve had a conversation with someone in customer service (a front desk clerk, and a record keeper) where I started the question with, “This is kind of an oddball question…”  Because in each case, it was.  And it got me thinking: most staff isn’t trained for the oddball question.  By definition, it’s atypical, and they won’t get asked it very often.  If they can instead focus on the majority of the questions they’ll get, then they’ll return satisfactory results a majority of the time.


But what about those oddball questions?  Indeed, they are rare.  But whoever is asking them knows that there’s something not normal about them, especially if they preface it with the question being oddball.


Here’s a major opportunity to win someone over.


If I call the front desk and ask what time check-out is, I expect an answer pretty quickly.  If I don’t get an answer, or something off the wall, chances are you will irritate me.  But – if I ask a question (maybe it’s a problem I can’t solve), and the person comes to my aid, helps me solve it, cheerfully, and makes me think that the question isn’t that oddball that all – they’ve won me over.


It’s easy to answer the easy questions.  Training staff to recognize the corner cases, when the guest or customer might be struggling, or confused – that’s a major opportunity to surprise and delight.  It is these memories that stick with a customer.  In fact, moments like these can even obscure some other small imperfections.


If you manage a front-of-the-house staff or are otherwise involved in dealing with customer interaction, think about how you can surprise and delight people by not just being able to answer their oddball questions, but doing so with aplomb.


(a hat tip to Mr. Seth Godin for this phrase, and to the two customer service interactions I had this week that facilitated the post.)


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