Overwhelmed?…Turn Your Unproductive Hours Dealing With Interruptions Into Time Well Spent

In this post, you’re going to discover the 3 most valuable questions you can ask the people you support in order to reposition yourself from being overwhelmed by the extra workload and hours spent on interruptions to feeling in control again and adding massive value.

The problem with being perceived as the ‘go to’ person, as complimentary as it may be, is the people you support or let us call them your customers will see you as being the quickest and easiest option to solving their problems.


You may feel that you have no control over the interruptions you get day to day. Well, that’s not the case. That’s what some administrators believe. As the ‘go to’ person you are being sought after because of your expertise, precisely because the customer either doesn’t know what they need or how to achieve their desired outcome. They are coming to you for a solution. So if you can guide your customers through a strategic line of questioning, you’ll stand a greater chance of regaining control again.


The three most valuable questions you can ask your customers are the three ‘what’s’;

  1. What’s the goal (present)?
  2. What’s been done (past)?
  3. What’s an improvement (future)?


Let me explain…


Question 1 (present): What outcome are you currently trying to achieve?

A lot of people may stop at explaining what problem they are trying to overcome and not go as far as explaining the outcome they are trying to achieve. The purpose of this question is to clearly identify what their desired outcome is. Knowing this information is key to establishing what you’ll choose to do to help support them in this process.


Question 2 (past): What have you tried doing so far to overcome the issue?

Understanding what action your customer has taken so far will help eliminate wasting your time in trying the same things. This will help you refine your plan of action to support them. This question will identify which customers you can coach and encourage to try finding solutions to their problem on their own before coming to you. Just imagine how many interruptions that might save you…even if half of these people tried to help themselves next time and were able to resolve their issue without needing your support.


Question 3 (future): What can we do to make this easier in the future?

This takes the conversation into a discussion about how either yourself or your customer can prevent the problem from reoccurring in future or how to make the solution much quicker and easier to obtain. The beauty of this question is the opportunity to create a win-win. Your customer will want the problem resolved as quick and easy as possible and you want to limit interruptions for the same problem. This will free up more of your future time which you’ll thank yourself for later.


Let me give you a very basic example to demonstrate…


An internal customer comes to you for the latest company contact list because the version they have is missing information (problem). They need to contact someone urgently to deal with an issue that has come up (desired outcome) but they can’t find or access the latest list (action taken). You update the list fortnightly but you both agree that it would be easier if it were saved in a simple and easy location where employees can access the latest version (improvement). You agree to implement the improvement and communicate to the rest of the employees therefore also creating a reduction in the frequency of this same query.


For those of you who are a little more advanced, try going deeper into these questions. This will help uncover the underlying issues that your customers are trying to overcome. It may not be as obvious as you first think. The biggest mistake newcomers make with this technique is not taking the time to listen to the customer and allowing them to respond to all three questions before starting to overcoming the issue to deliver the desired outcome.


Download the checklist and practice this with close colleagues before trying with other customers.

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