Step 4: Give a complete answer (not just a correct one)

By Christine |

A correct answer is essential — but it’s not enough.

A complete answer describes the cause of the issue

Whether it’s a medical issue or an automotive one, customers like to know why something isn’t working the way it’s supposed to. If you’re not sure of the reason, provide a few possibilities. 

A complete answer explains not only potential solutions, but the reasoning behind the methods used

When you explain the reasoning behind your recommendation, it gives you a chance to demonstrate your expertise. This builds the customer’s trust —not only can they see first-hand just how knowledgeable you are, they gain a better understanding of why the answer is what it is and can be more willing to accept it.

A complete answer provides 1-3 actionable recommendations/best practices

Remember: Your goal isn’t just to help customers with their problems. It’s also to empower them with information to help them help themselves. They should walk away from the transaction with a clear sense of what to do next. And when they have more than one option, customers feel more in control and thus, better able to cope on their own once the interaction has ended.

A complete answer addresses any known side effects or consequences to the recommendations provided

Providing pros and cons of each solution gives customers a clearer picture of what they’re up against and avoids any surprises later on.

A complete answer offers supporting information

Supporting information does two things:

  1. It helps bolster your answer with evidence. If one of your recommendations is backed by an academic study, it’s a good idea to share a link to the study.
  2. It helps customers educate themselves and might even be part of the solution (for example, if there’s a mobile app that can help them track their symptoms).

But be careful — not all sources were created equal, especially online. Make sure the information you provide comes from a reliable source.

Good Sources

Bad Sources

Online trade and medical journals

Wikipedia (without verification of sources)

Articles featured on reputable news sites


University websites

Personal websites

links that end in .org, .edu and .gov

For-profit companies

If you’re not sure about a source, look up the author online. If they’re a reputable practitioner, you should be able to find something about them online. In fact, this is one way to use Wikipedia – most of the information provided in entries is footnoted. Click on the footnote to learn more about the author and to locate the original article, then decide whether or not to pass it along to a customer.  Only provide links to reputable sources as they will reflect on you too.

A complete answer is written in an organized, easy-to-read format

If the customer can’t understand the answer, it might as well be incorrect. Make sure that you use simple, straightforward language and that you format your answer in a clear way — remember, you’re not speaking with them face to face where inflection and body language can help to eliminate confusion. For more on this topic, see Step 6.


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