Oxford Languages defines rapport as ‘a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well’. And if this isn’t one of the most important elements of a successful business, then we don’t know what is!
Building a solid, trusted relationship with customers allows both parties to operate at their best, working to achieve the best result for everyone and making it a more enjoyable experience for all involved.
But how do you build rapport with customers? What are the key elements when it comes to building professional relationships?
You came to the right place! Because in this blog, we’re going to answer all those questions and more.
What does it mean to build rapport with a customer?
Establishing rapport with customers is a process that should sit at the very heart of every business. For without customers, businesses cannot survive.
When building rapport, here are a few things to remember that will set you off on the right foot in any customer interaction:
Being friendly and optimistic
The big number one! We’ve all been there: walking into a business or establishment hoping to find what we need, only to be met with someone who looks as though they couldn’t give two figs about being there, let alone helping us. This attitude will always leave a bad taste in a customer’s mouth and will never win friends or influence people.
An optimistic, ‘we can solve it’ attitude will always be a winner when it comes to customer service. A large portion of the job includes problem-solving and coming up with solutions to the eclectic array of issues that customers will present you with.
Being able to maintain a positive and upbeat outlook of situations and not being easily defeated when things get tricky will make you a resilient and resourceful member of any team. At the end of the day, customers just want to know that a business is doing all it can to help them with their request, and if this is shown with optimism and a problem-solving attitude, you’ll have a much better reputation than if not.
Giving your full attention to a customer during interactions is vital. Customers want to feel like they are being truly listened to and that their needs will be met when they express them. Taking the time to remember details such as names, personal details, and things the customer likes or wants will all work to gain a willing patron’s trust and rapport.
Coordination with customers
Showing flexibility and good communication when it comes to aiding customers is paramount to forming good business relationships. Communication is key.
Being sure to clearly lay out options and ideas for customers, as well as coordinating with their schedules and recognising their wants and needs, is the solid foundation of any good relationship, business or otherwise. If one party is left constantly guessing what the other is trying to say, or if there are gaps in communication that can lead to confusion or misunderstanding, things can get messy pretty quickly.
What are the 4 elements of rapport?
While many different elements go into the process of building solid rapport with customers, there are a few vital pillars that hold up the entire show:
Customers will see right through inauthenticity, which will instantly make them distrust the business and those who work for it. When greeting a customer with a lack of authenticity and truth, it suggests to customers that you do not have faith in your own business, that you do not care about the customer, and that you believe you can almost insult their intelligence by putting up facades to dazzle and bemuse them into a certain way of thinking.
We are always told ‘just be yourself’ – well, this applies more than ever when operating a business and dealing with customer interactions.
There is a notion that you cannot be both authentic and professional; that professionalism requires utter formality at all times, and therefore you can show none of your personality or heart – this is absolutely incorrect.
You can maintain professionalism and dedication to your business whilst also being your best self, taking an interest in your customer’s life and story, and showing them that you are not a workforce robot and that they are dealing with a real person with a real life. In fact, this approach will put customers instantly at ease, and they will likely be more amenable to challenges that may arise.
Looking for similarities between you and a customer bridges the gap between the customer-business relationship. Often there can be a power dynamic between a business and its customers, where the business has all the power, and the customer can be desperately seeking solutions.
By finding common ground with a customer, it can level the playing field, making a customer feel like they are being spoken to as an equal. At the end of the day, we are all just looking for solutions to problems – hey, that is why businesses exist, to generate custom and help people with their requests!
So why not start from that equal space and find the similarities between business and customer? It makes for great trust and rapport in a working relationship.
While we can never fully understand someone else’s situation or experience unless we have truly lived it, we can always show empathy. Showing a customer that you empathise with their situation or difficulties is one of the greatest kindnesses a business can show to its patrons.
A business that does not care will never get very far. Caring should be at the heart of why a business does what it does, and outwardly showing this care towards customers is what will have customers coming back time and again.
Find experiences you share with customers
Shared experience is one of the most effective ways in which to create a bond or relationship with a customer, or anyone for that matter.
Knowing that you have faced or experienced similar journeys or challenges to someone will always create a good base level of rapport, as you are better able to understand their experience and where they are coming from, what their wants may be and why they want them. Shared experience can give you a deeper understanding of someone and how they react and operate.
Examples of rapport building questions
One of the best ways to form a good relationship with a customer is to ask questions; thoughtful questions that fully engage with the customer and their desires. Showing a real interest in them and their life will welcome them in.
We have put together a few build rapport examples in the form of questions and statements to help get you started in your quest to build good rapport:
- ‘I’d love to know more about…’
- ‘What was your experience with xyz?’
- Comment on or enquire about their notable qualifications or elements of their job – ‘Could you tell me more about what this was like?’ ‘How was the process of doing/achieving this?’
- Personalise the conversation – ‘my (insert family member or friend) is in this line of work, do you have any advice/could you recommend xyz?’
- ‘Is there any way I can help you further?’
- ‘How can I best support you?’
Examples of body language and building rapport
There is also a great deal to be said for body language cues. How we use our bodies communicates a lot about how we feel and want others to feel.
For example, crossed arms, lack of eye contact or overall stiffness creates an instant vibe that we are anxious, unsure or worse, completely disinterested in what someone is saying – instant customer repellent. Whilst open, relaxed body language and good levels of eye contact all suggest to a customer that we are comfortable both in ourselves and our business, that we are engaged with our customers and, best of all, are passionate and excited about what we do and how we can help.
These are just a few of the building rapport with customers examples that can give you a great head start when working with people inside and outside of your business, helping you create a working environment and ethos to be proud of.
The world of customer relations is a wide one, and full of possibilities to create amazing rapport with customers through your business.
Here at My Learning Online, we have a broad range of small business, admin and reception courses to get you started on your journey to business excellence! Perhaps our short course in Professional Communication could be the perfect way to get your business off the ground and help you generate top-notch rapport with customers and colleague connections!
Learn how to build the best rapport in the business with an online short course today. We can’t wait to hear from you!