Building a rapport with your customers is essential to promoting customer retention and loyalty. Customers in the marketplace today have more choice than ever, and may be understandably reluctant to commit money and long-term loyalty to a brand. Therefore, it’s vital that you know how to build an effective rapport with customers on their terms, as poor service can lead to ‘brand churning’.
What does an effective rapport with customers look like?
Every customer wants something slightly different from their brands, depending on their personality, needs, customer longevity, and the product or service that you offer. However, there are certain things that most, if not all, customers expect from their brands. This applies whether you’re offering a product, service or a combination of both.
Effective customer rapport typically includes:
- A thorough understanding of customer needs and wants, and a clear process of excavating these.
- Opportunities for customers to provide honest feedback—such as a customer experience survey – and to ask questions about your product and customer services.
- Easy access to information that they might need to use your product or service effectively.
- Being open about your company values so that your customers are aware of what your brand stands for.
These points aren’t all-encompassing, but they are good to consider to begin building a positive rapport with customers.
Image sourced from Statista
Why work on building a customer rapport?
Businesses have to be selective in today’s market as to which sales and marketing efforts they dedicate resources to keep to key customer engagement benchmarks (CEB). So, why should you commit to building a good rapport with your customers?
The simple fact is that consumers have more choice than they’ve ever had, and customer experience is as vital as your product or service to building customer loyalty. There are other ways to promote a positive customer experience, including marketing and SEO for customer experience, but customers fundamentally need to feel heard and understood by brands.
These are some of the major reasons why you should invest in building customer rapport:
- A positive experience typically creates customer loyalty, which helps to raise future revenue.
- A good rapport with customers helps your sales and customer service teams to better understand customer issues and get them solved quickly.
- Mistakes happen, but customers with a good rapport with a brand typically have more patience with errors.
A strong customer rapport is particularly valuable in industries with high levels of choice or uncertainty as an act of reassurance for consumers.
How to build a rapport with customers
Building a rapport with customers takes time and effort. You’ve got to have a plan and uniformity across your organization in order to affect widespread change and improvements in how you interact with customers.
There are a large number of things you can do to build a rapport with your customers, but these 9 ways of growing closer to your customers are widely applicable across a wide variety of industries.
1. Introduce yourself
This might be the basics of conversation, but many customer service representatives and sales professionals will forget to introduce themselves before diving straight into the topic at hand with a prospective customer. Whilst this approach is preferred by some customers, most prefer to feel that their concerns are being dealt with by a real human being.
Image sourced from Statista.
Depending on the situation, here are some of the things that you might want to let your customer know before starting on their issue:
- Your name
- Your role within the business
- How to contact you in case they need further assistance
- Your specialty—depending on the size and niche of your organization.
Remember to give your customers time to introduce themselves as well so that you can begin to understand their needs.
2. Find commonalities
Think about how you speak with new colleagues. How do you get to know them on a deeper level, in order to promote a good workplace culture and working relationships? Generally, you ask them about themselves and find common ground.
This is how it is with building a rapport with customers. Although you may not have lots of time to get to know each customer that you speak with, there are a few quick ways to find commonalities and use these to build a rapport:
- Ask if they have plans for the rest of the day?
- Ask how they are enjoying/using your product?
- Ask how your service has impacted their work/life?
You can also use their interests to build a rapport, even if you have little interest in that field yourself. Express a broad interest and allow them to lead the conversation from there.
3. Understand their needs
Understanding customer needs is vital to customer service roles, at least in terms of knowing why they have contacted you. But you should also try to understand what your customers need from your business in the long-term, throughout their customer lifecycle.
Firstly, you must ascertain why your customers are contacting you and what they need, whether this is a first contact or at a customer service center. One of the ways that businesses can do this is to run a virtual receptionist service, which can direct calls and contacts to the right department.
You should also be sure to open every call or contact by explicitly asking customers how you can help them.
It’s important to understand your customer needs even if you aren’t speaking directly with them, for example if you run a blog site such as Sparebusiness.com. From here, you can build your interaction on their needs and work towards a solution.
4. Show empathy
Empathy is the bedrock of positive interactions. This is especially true if your industry involves high-running emotions or you work in conflict or fault resolution. Even if a customer is upset, angry or frustrated, it’s important that you approach this interaction with confidence and empathy.
Some of the ways that you can show empathy to customers include:
- Listening and not interrupting them when speaking
- Using affirming statements
- Validating their frustration
- Allowing them to express their issue before offering a solution
This is how to demonstrate empathy towards individual customers. There are also a number of ways in which you can use empathy to connect with your customers on a group level.
For example, employ social listening solutions to understand the mood of consumers in your industry and bring that understanding to your conversations with your customers.
5. Be prepared
Nothing kills a rapport like long periods of interruption due to uncertainty or miscommunication. It benefits a customer service or sales team to have plans in place for an unexpected question or issue. This way, you won’t have to spend awkward minutes breaking up an interaction with a customer to search for an answer.
Planning is not just for atypical issues. A call routing service is a useful way of identifying calls based on their need, for example, a sales or complaint call, and routing them to the correct department.
6. Be proactive
To be proactive is to anticipate what your customers might need in the future and meet those needs now, by:
- Employing call forwarding software or a phone answering service for when you’re unable to pick up calls
- Sending further information at intervals
- Including post-sales contact information with your product or service
- Checking for other issues on customer service calls
Being proactive doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Small actions show that you are mindful of your customers and value their time and loyalty. You can even use a software to track these actions to make sure that you remember to include them. For example, an ecommerce business might use a Shopify ERP integration to keep each business process up-to-date and in one place.
7. Understand your company culture
Consumers typically choose a specific company for a reason. It may be their product or service, but their choice is usually helped along by the company culture. By understanding your company culture and integrating it into your engagement with customers, you can build a values-based rapport with anyone who contacts your business. You may be interested to see information regarding the state of customer engagement (ILE).
Image sourced from Statista
Your company culture is an indication of how customers interact with your business. This is where social customer relationship management is vital. By identifying how your customers interact through social platforms, you can see how your customers want to be spoken to and how they use your company’s values in their communication.
8. Avoid using a script
Phone scripts can be incredibly useful, especially when it comes to working through complex processes. But using a script can also make your conversation sound stunted and unnatural, which often prevents you from building a rapport with your customers.
Instead, try having a few outlines of potential conversation routes, including any processes or advice where necessary. This allows you to guide the conversation, using your own judgment, towards a solution for your customers.
9. Be yourself
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be yourself. It’s far easier to build a rapport between two real people than between a customer and a faceless business entity. Within the guidelines of your organization, stick to your own speech patterns and vocabulary.
This will allow you to have a genuine conversation with your customers. Everyone puts on some sort of persona on the phone and when speaking to people they don’t know, but you can put your customers at ease by being yourself.
Is a good customer rapport enough?
A positive rapport with your customers goes a long way to promoting brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. However, it isn’t always enough to grow your brand and keep your customers happy. You’ve got to ensure that your business runs smoothly and provides customers with an experience they are happy to repeat. For this, you may consider using an SAP ERP integration or customer relationship management (CRM) system.
You’ve also got to ensure that your face-to-face and digital customer service processes are strong. This provides your customers with a uniform experience that leaves them inclined to return to your business in the future. Combine strong business processes with a good customer rapport, and you’ll find that your customer experience becomes your strongest asset.