ask good questions

Ask Good Questions to Save Time and Money

Knowing how to ask good questions saved me at least $1500 today. Asking good questions can save you time as well as money. You can learn how to do this, too. Read on.

Ask Good Questions Using Data and Respect

Too many of us take things at face value. It is fine to ask questions when someone is telling you something that doesn’t make sense. If you ask with respect—and not pummel with dozens of questions—you’ll get an answer that makes sense.

When I dropped my car off for servicing yesterday, the service person told me I was going to have to pay a big chunk of change for them to just look at my car. As usual with this individual, his delivery style graded grated on me.

That made me mad. Early this morning I called the head of the service department to say some things are not adding up here. We’ve bought three cars from this dealership and taken a fourth car there for servicing. Why was it going to cost me a chunk of change to have them look at my car? And why was I going to have to pay fees for certain services that I’ve never had to pay for before?

I had a good chat with the head of service. I asked him to assign me to a different service manager, because I really don’t like the one that they had sent me to. I got a call later today, and the result is that I won’t be charged for several things that I was told I would be. And I no longer have to deal with that service manager.

Making that call and asking those questions, which is a challenge for me, has made me a happier person and my car will run better. Those questions alone probably saved us $250 or more.

When Someone’s Confused, Seek Help

My next learning opportunity came when I had the electrician here because we’ve been experiencing power surges. The power company had been here earlier and told me we needed the electrician to fix one thing. The electrician, whom we’ve used before and I really like, was coming up with problems that were going to cost us possibly $1500.

I didn’t fully grasp what the electrician said, so I called the power company and asked to speak to someone who could help. When I spoke with a power company engineer, he explained that they had already looked at the situation the electrician was concerned about and that everything was fine. We only needed to make the one fix that the power company had recommended.

Taking those steps to get clear about what really needed to be done saved us hundreds of dollars. I was happy, and the electrician was happy because we did what was right.

Look for the Simple Answer First

While all the hoopla with the electricity was going on, the backup battery for my office computer system was going nuts – – beeping and clicking off and on every few minutes. If you have bought one of these backup batteries, you know that they are very expensive. The battery wasn’t that old, and I felt like I really hadn’t gotten my money’s worth.

Instead of taking the battery back to the store and getting another one, I decided to call the manufacturer to ask for help. The technician had me turn off the power to the battery, unplug the devices, turn the power to the battery back on, then plug the devices back in. It took two minutes.

And then there was no beeping. Apparently backup batteries occasionally need to be rebooted just like our computers do. By making that one phone call, I saved $100 or more on a new backup battery.

The point of all this is to demonstrate that being able to ask good questions can make a rough day go a lot better.

Here are some tips on how you can save money and frustration by asking good questions. Just remember to ask them with the right attitude and body language. If done wrong, you could start a war.

“Can You Help Me Understand That?”

When you don’t understand what somebody—a loved one, client or your boss—says, don’t just move on. Get clarity.

“Can you help me understand what you just said”—when asked without an attitude on your part—gives the other person a chance to clarify their question or statement.

“Let Me See If I Understand You Correctly”

No one wants to feel like a fool and have to call a client back to ask when they meant on the last phone call. Before you end a conversation, take a moment to paraphrase what you heard and what you understand. This gives you and the client a chance to get clarity then, instead of later.

“What Is Most Important to You Right Now?”

You, your team, other partners, and your client(s) have just spent three hours going over a list of things that need to be done. Each person in that meeting probably has a different perspective on what should be done first.

Get clarity and ask the client what is most important to him/her now. Don’t make assumptions. We all know what happens when we do that, right? You can’t read the client’s mind, so get clear about what you should do next.

Cover the 5 W’s and an H

Just like you learned in school, in any conversation, make sure you are clear on the

  • What
  • When
  • Who
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

Not doing so will result in somebody having to take time to circle back and ask more questions. Don’t be obnoxious about this—just make sure your notes have all those covered.

Remember: clarity in communications is our goal. The way to get that is to ask good questions.

REWARD YOURSELF for reading this and watch this clip from Monty Python and the Holy Grail

© Pamela A. Scott,, 2016

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