This technique involves starting with general questions, and then homing in on a point in each answer, and asking more and more detail at each level. It's often used by detectives taking a statement from a witness:
"How many people were involved in the fight?"
"Were they kids or adults?"
"What sort of ages were they?"
"About fourteen or fifteen."
"Were any of them wearing anything distinctive?"
"Yes, several of them had red baseball caps on."
"Can you remember if there was a logo on any of the caps?"
"Now you come to mention it, yes, I remember seeing a big letter N."
Using this technique, the detective has helped the witness re-live the scene and gradually focus on a useful detail. Perhaps he'll be able to identify young men wearing a hat like this from CCTV footage. It is unlikely he would have got this information if he's simply asked an open question such as "Are there any details you can give me about what you saw?"
When using funnel questioning, start with closed questions. As you progress through the tunnel, start using more open questions.
Funnel questions are good for:
- Finding out more detail about a specific point: "Tell me more about Option 2."
- Gaining the interest or increasing the confidence of the person you're speaking with: "Have you used the IT Helpdesk?", "Did they solve your problem?", "What was the attitude of the person who took your call?"