Building Rapport with Your Customers  


by John Tschohl

Have you ever noticed how good receiving a compliment feels? It’s something small, but it’s something that can boost our mood for hours afterward. This same good feeling occurs when people genuinely ask us about things we are interested in. This strategy of making people in your life feel good plays a big role in the customer service industry, and can help you build and maintain a strong base of loyal customers. Building rapport with your customers is easy, and it might even lead to new friendships along the way.  

I enjoy meeting and helping people. Not for what it can get me, but for what I can learn about others. I always try to be authentically me, represent my business honestly and build genuine relationships with my customers. When I stick to this strategy, the financial rewards flow. Building genuine relationships with your customers is the same as building rapport with them. Be more interested in your customers, and you will build rapport. Follow these easy steps for building rapport with your customers.

Find Something in Common
When it comes to building rapport, your first focus should be on finding something in common. Make friends first. Your goal is to make customers feel like you are someone they can trust. Someone they can believe. Someone they can do business with.

Learn What Questions to Ask
The questions you ask your customer should uncover issues or challenges they are facing. You can then position yourself to provide solutions to those issues.

Listen More to Learn More
Ask questions and listen without interrupting. Pay attention to what is important to your customer.

Learn to be Silent
Give your customer time to finish before you jump in with new thoughts of your own. Your silence is an opportunity to listen not only for words and ideas, but for feelings. As you listen to people, look for opportunities to ask questions based on what you hear. You should never be so focused on what you have to say that you forget to listen. It is well worth the time it takes to listen. Listening multiplies the value of the information you receive. You can also gain a reputation for courtesy and concern for others—two positive traits for success.

Tune in to Their Problems and Issues
Think about how your product or service can provide a solution. If it can’t, is there anyone you can refer them to? If you can help the person, you’ve just started a new relationship.

Avoid Wandering Eyes
Concentrate on the person in front of you. Aim for one-on-one attention. Send the right message by physically facing the person completely. The most offensive thing you can do is look around the room as if you are trying to spot someone to hand the customer off to.

Make Use of Word of Mouth
People refer business to people they know, like and trust. Think about when you needed a service provider. Chances are you asked some friends who they would recommend if you didn’t know someone yourself. It pays to know as many people as possible who will give your name when asked for a recommendation for the type of service or solution you offer.

 Defining Customer Service
In my book, Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service, I write: “Service is defined by its function—maintaining old customers, attracting new customers, and leaving all customers with an impression of the company that induces them to do business with the company again.” Expressed in terms of attitude, service means displaying:

  • Thoughtfulness
  • Courtesy
  • Integrity
  • Helpfulness
  • Efficiency
  • Availability
  • Friendliness
  • Knowledge
  • Professionalism

Different Levels of Customer Service
Bringing your customer service to a new level can enhance the experience your customers have every time they step through the door, but service means different things to different people. At the lowest level, service is something a customer is not entitled to, but receive as a gift. At a somewhat higher level, service means focusing on customer transactions but only fixing something if it is broken. At the highest level, the aim of service is to deliver more than the customer expects. Good service no longer gets you in the game. Only consistent, exceptional service will create loyal customers. If you make it your aim to build rapport with your customers by involving them in your day-to-day operations, they will give you back ten-fold the information and loyalty you need to be a success.

Most companies have a mission statement, which is an easy-to-remember sentence or paragraph illustrating the business’s goals and purpose. Disney’s mission statement is, “To make people happy.” Boeing mission statement is, “To push the leading edge of aviation, taking huge challenges doing what others cannot do,” and 3M’s mission statement is, “To solve unsolved problems innovatively.” You’ll note that these companies’ mission statements are not about making a profit; rather, profit is a reward for fulfilling the mission. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

John Tschohl is an international service strategist, speaker, and founder and president of the Service Quality Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Described by Time and Entrepreneur magazines as a customer service guru, he has written several books on customer service, including Moving Up. The Service Quality Institute has developed more than 26 customer service training programs that have been distributed and presented throughout the world.

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