Asking questions


Yesterday, I helped a family member troubleshoot why her Internet connection suddenly got a lot slower. It turns out the problem started right after she switched her phone service to one of those digital phone products from the cable company. The trouble is, she’s still using dial-up for her Internet access, which relies on an analog phone line. In my experience, analog modems don’t play nice with any sort of digital phone or VoIP service, so I pointed to that as the culprit.

Technical issues are a dime a dozen, so my point here goes beyond the technical side of things. I’m interested in the lack of responsibility on the cable company’s part. In particular, when she called to order the digital phone service, nobody at the cable company thought to ask my relative if she was using her old phone line for Internet access. Clearly, this is an important thing to do. Whether she was using dial-up or DSL, those services simply aren’t going to work over the cable phone service.

The takeaway here is that every business has some degree of responsibility to ask customers the right questions. If a customer is ordering a product and you know of several things that it might conflict with, you need to ask about those upfront. Sure, you might lose a small number of sales if people back out. Other times, you can upsell them on a value-added solution. In any event, giving people fair warning ahead of time helps them avoid surprises. For the seller, this means fewer problems and cancellations after the delivery date.