Customers in any business are attracted to enjoyable, comfortable experiences and will generally prefer to do business with those organizations they have built a good relationship with. Building rapport with customers is important in developing the positive relationship necessary for great service delivery. The ability of employees to build and sustain rapport with customers is important to every company’s success.
Good rapport will create a healthy customer-employee relationship. Considering the fact that happy employees = happy customers, you realize how this could translate to increase productivity, customer satisfaction, and loyalty. This makes it important that customer-facing staff master the basics of building customer rapport. The payoff is well worth the time & resources invested. Here 5 steps to building great customer rapport –
1. Be Well Groomed
To successfully build rapport, you need to make a great first impression. If there’s a dress code, ensure you look sharp and professional in your attire. It is best to be moderate in your dressing, try to maintain a good balance between being overdressed and underdressed. If your job entails you go out to meet different customers, then try to dress like your customers. For instance –
- If you work in a bank, and you are to meet some corporate customers, look sharp in your suit and tie.
- If the customers are non-corporate, (perhaps farmers), you can ditch the jacket and the tie.
Although this also depends on your dress code policy, if your organization allows it then it is a good way to build rapport with your customers. Your appearance should help you connect to people, and not be a hindrance.
2. Be Friendly & Approachable
This entails you understand and apply the basics of good communication. Smile, make eye contact, use the customer’s name, and listen with your eyes as well, show emotional intelligence. It’s impossible to build rapport with your customers if they don’t feel good interacting with you.
Remember how you felt when someone gave you a compliment? next time you are with a customer, if the situation permits, try giving them a sincere compliment. If you like his shoes, tell him. Her bag? tell her. Everyone likes to get complemented, a sincere compliment shows you pay attention and demonstrates to the customer that you are interested in them. It also creates an opening for small talk, which enhances rapport.
3. Identify & Highlight Your Similarities
Identifying common ground can help in establishing rapport. This can be achieved with small talk. If you have just complimented the customer, follow up with an open-ended question related to the compliment you just gave. Avoid asking close-ended questions that have either Yes or No as answers. Instead make use of open-ended questions that begin with how, why or what. Open-ended questions give you the opportunity to learn more about the customer, and sometimes reveal areas of common interest. Perhaps, you both like the color Blue, or you attend the same Church, grew up in the same town, or have the same taste in music.
As you make small talk, don’t forget to highlight the areas where you share similarities. If the customer told how much he likes a nice evening drive, tell him about that time you went on a road trip with your friends. Don’t make up any similarities or lie just to build rapport, it hurts your credibility. Trust plays a very important role in building rapport, telling lies to the customer to build rapport is dishonest & manipulative. If the customer detects the lie, the aim becomes defeated as they will become more distant.
4. Show Empathy
Empathy is how we as individuals understand what others are experiencing as if we were feeling it ourselves, and it is a key aspect of Emotional Intelligence.
In the course of interacting with the customer, it is important to show a level of empathy to demonstrate that you really understand what the customer is communicating.
By understanding their point of view and the reasons for thinking the way they do, you connect better with them. If the customer has just complained about something or expressed any negative sentiments about your organization. Be sure to use empathy statements to communicate your understanding to the customer. Use statements like;
I understand how disappointed you must be, If I were in your position, I would feel the same way.
This would frustrate me, too.
You are totally right, please give me just a minute while I figure this out for you.
I would come to the same conclusion.
Empathy is an invaluable skill for everyone. Building & sustaining relationships meaningful relationships with people would be difficult if you lack basic empathy skills. (Read: Tips On How To Improve Empathy)
5. Mirror & Match
To build quick rapport with anyone, you should try to make yourself more like them. What I mean by that, is for you to mirror and match the customer as naturally as you can. To achieve this try to match and mirror aspects of the customer, such as – their choice of words, tone, speech rate and body language. If the customer tends to use certain words in his interaction. Use those same words in your response. For instance –
Don’t be mechanical or creepy, make your matching and mirroring a subtle reflection of the customer’s behavior so it doesn’t become obvious to them that you are trying to match or mirror their behavior. You can also match body language aspects like gestures, posture, facial expressions and even breathing patterns.
People naturally tend to gravitate towards those people who have a lot in common with them. When you mirror or match your customers, you become like their mirror image. This enhances your ability to connect with them, and also improves the quality of your interactions.
Best-selling author and motivational speaker shares and demonstrates some of these tips in this video.
Building rapport is not as difficult as people think, after all, you have built natural rapport with friends and loved ones in the course of your lifetime. The challenge is learning to build rapport deliberately.
If you practice these steps, you would notice a significant improvement in your ability to connect with people – colleagues, customers and random people.