News & Insight

Press Pause on Conversational Backtracking – Maybe?? Why Reducing Conversational Backtracking is Important

Do you remember the first time you used the rewind function on your tv remote? The ability to pause, rewind, and play live tv on demand gave you a level of control you’d never had before. No longer were you missing important moments due to household interruptions or being out of the room when your favorite program came back on. While the rewind function is great in our daily lives, when it comes to customer conversations, backtracking isn’t such a good thing. When customers are forced to repeat portions of their conversation with your engagement specialists (agents), they become frustrated and disengaged. So how do you press pause on this bad customer service habit? Ask insightful questions.

The Key Elements of Insightful Questions

When speaking with your customers, it’s imperative that engagement specialists ask insightful questions to help understand their pain points, diagnose the problem, and craft an appropriate resolution. For example, asking clarifying questions can help you uncover the real intent behind what the customer initially said while exploratory questions help identify root wants or needs. Different types of questions will lead to different outcomes, but asking insightful questions will ultimately help the engagement specialist gather high quality information about both the customer’s situation and the context (want, need, or issue) behind the interaction. Taking time to ask the right questions also helps engagement specialists gain a broader understanding of the situation by challenging assumptions and identifying connections between individual issues. From there, engagement specialists can narrow their focus to solve the real problem at hand.

Of course, none of this is really possible without first establishing trust, which we discussed in our previous blog. If customers don’t trust the engagement specialist they are interacting with, they are less likely to disclose important details about the real motivations behind their reasons for contacting you. As you can see, the communication skills of the specialist are critically important. Their ability to quickly establish credibility, the questions they ask, and how they frame the conversation will have a substantial impact on the customer’s perception of your brand. To help your company elevate dialogue and ask the questions that really matter, follow these three simple tips:

  • Ask insightful questions to identify root wants or needs.
  • Use persuasive statements to increase buy-in and communicate expertise.
  • Engage in verbal matching by offering a solution that matches wants or needs.

Does Asking Insightful Questions Increase Talk Time?

A concern we often hear when talking about dialogue is its impact on Average Handle Time (AHT), with the mistaken assumption that a transactional conversation is efficient while dialogue is costly. The concern stems from a misunderstanding that dialogue is just transaction conversation with chit chat peppered throughout rather than viewing dialogue as an adaptation to conversational needs. Throughout our decades of scientific research, we’ve found that conversational techniques such as asking insightful questions actually reduce the likelihood of conversational backtracking, which reduces handle time. Asking insightful questions also helps engagement specialists get to the root cause of the issue faster, which also reduces handle time. And not only does it decrease handle time, asking insightful questions will also help reduce repeat calls because you’re diagnosing and treating the problem instead of the symptoms, which is truly a win win for everyone.

STARTEK recently completed a study involving 17,000 calls and found the engagement specialist’s ability to engage in the habits of dialogue had no negative impact on AHT.

If your engagement specialists are treating symptoms instead of problems, trying to end calls too quickly, or using pre-scripted and rehearsed statements, it could be time to take back control of your contact center. To learn more about STARTEK’s principles of dialogue, visit our website at and ask us some insightful questions about our solutions through the contact us form.