If your business relies on satisfied customers, your staff needs to understand how to build rapport and maintain a positive relationship with customers. According to Glenn D. Porter in Forbes, “Building rapport means forging a trusted relationship. It means being an adviser, not just a vendor. Rapport, ultimately, is about empathy—and you can’t fake empathy.”
How do you build rapport with customers?
Use the Customer’s Name
There is a fine line between using a customer’s name to show you are listening and using a customer’s name because you were told to always address the customer by name. Both may be true, but employees need to be trained to incorporate the customer’s name into their service routine.
The other day, I was in Starbucks and ordered my drink. I gave my name as usual, and after the cashier wrote my order and name on the cup, he looked up at me and asked, “May I get you anything to eat this morning, Sarah?” Now that is the way to use someone’s name! I didn’t want anything to eat, but my Starbucks experience left a lasting impression on me.
Listen to Your Customers
After working in one job role repeatedly, it gets difficult not to assume you immediately know the answer to your customer’s question or the solution to his or her problem. Employees need to be trained to first listen, and then respond.
The problem with trying to get ahead of a customer’s problem is you may be solving the wrong problem or answering the wrong question. If employees spend all of their time on the wrong solution, it will end up taking longer than if they waited, confirmed the issue or question, and then took action to complete the customer’s inquiry. The importance of listening in building rapport is explained in more detail in another blog post on building rapport.
Get to Know Your Customers
There’s no reason why your employees can’t attempt to relate to each of your customers. Not every customer will be receptive to this, but others will be pleasantly surprised to see someone genuinely interested in interacting with them. A script or canned response will ruin this effort, so go through sample exercises to get employees comfortable starting up a friendly and warm conversation.
According to Don Peppers in Fast Company, “Great service happens only when you relate to your customers ‘one to one.’ To do that, you have to identify your customers, differentiate them, interact with them, and finally, customize your products or services to meet their needs.”
There’s no use in focusing on building rapport if you’re not going to maintain the relationships you have worked hard to build. Once you have built rapport, you need to develop a program for fostering those relationships.