[DISCLAIMER: I heart my wife very much and I admit that I actually do the same thing as described below.]
At times, my wife will ask me statements delivered in a question wrapper. Let me explain. Inevitably, when there is a chill in the air and we’re leaving the house with our children, she’ll ask me:
“Do you think the kids need coats?”
As someone inexperienced in the subtleties of marriage communication, I used to reply, “Oh, I think they’ll be alright” only to have her say moments later, “I really think they it would be better if they had coats. Let me go get them.” Now that I have been “trained”, I know that the correct answer to the question “Do you think the kids need coats?” is “Yes.” quickly followed by “And let me get them”.
You see. She was
asking telling me a statement (“the kids need coats”) delivered in a question wrapper (“Do you think…?”).
I was reminded of this statement/question duplicity the last time I visited my local Wal-Mart. After approaching the cashier to check out she asked me, “Did you find everything okay?” However, she “asked” this in such as way that it seemed to be more of a statement than a question. It was almost as if she was saying – “Look. As part of my job, I am supposed to ask you if ‘you found everything okay’. But what I really mean is ‘I hope you found everything okay because the line at my cash register is getting longer by the minute, my boss got on my case last week about my ‘slower pace’, and I really don’t care if you found the right dental floss for your child or not!’”
So, how can you truly ask “Did you find everything okay” (or “May I help you?”) as questions instead of a statement? I believe that it is all in the attitude- the attitude that comes from the right tone of voice, mannerisms, eye contact and the reason for asking the question in the first place.
If your company requires your frontline employees to ask questions, then you can expect at least some statement asking and customers that feel less then helped.