customer service

3 Tips for Building Rapport with Customers

Never underestimate the value of trust as a factor that separates you from your competitors. A customer who trusts your company is a strong ally in the fight for business, providing word-of-mouth advertising that you can’t get any other way. And your front-line employees in the complaints handling arena are in the perfect position to help.

Trust is built by making meaningful connections with customers. Establishing a strong rapport with the customer helps them to connect with your company, reassuring them that you’re a good fit for their needs.

Observe and reciprocate

People like others they can identify with. That’s why mirroring a customer’s attitude helps to establish a connection with them.

Train complaints-handling staff to speak to customers in the style in which they are being addressed. If the customer is talking in a frank and straightforward manner, it’s best to give them the facts and be concise.

On the other hand, if a customer asks how someone is first, they might like a more colloquial approach that involves some small talk. Train staff to assess the customer and be flexible to fit the preferences of the person with whom they are communicating.

Observing behavior is also a good way to ensure that you’re being attentive. Good listening skills show that the company is interested and cares about what the client is saying. Ideally, you will gain understanding from listening, which you can then use to judge how to respond appropriately.

Empathize and open up

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Customers want someone who understands them. This is especially important when handling complaints. To assure them that the company understands, customer complaints staff should use phrases like:

  • I’d be upset too if that happened to me.
  • I understand your frustration.
  • I sincerely wish there was more that I could do to compensate you for your disappointment.

Since we’re sometimes faced with situations where our hands are tied due to company policies or other circumstances, such phrases also help diffuse the customer’s anger when their preferred solution cannot be achieved. What these phrases say is that the representative and company are on the customer’s side. Customers don’t want to feel like they’re fighting against a business. Even if clients don’t exactly get their way, they are more likely to feel satisfied if they feel the company is really trying to make amends.

Customer service representatives who share their own preferences, insights and feelings are perceived as more real and personable, which reminds the customer that they’re talking to someone who is capable of empathizing with their needs and problems. They want to know that they’re dealing with a real person, not a machine on a script.

Be confident and personable

In my first tip, I mentioned how reciprocating the customer’s attitude was a good way to make a connection. Similarly, if you convey a pleasant attitude, the customer is likely to copy your behavior and respond agreeably as well.

Calling the customer by his or her first name also establishes a personal tone and rapport. By using names, customers get the impression that the company see them as an individual, which assures them that they will be treated with care, instead of being treated like just another case in a massive database.

Finally, confidence sends a reassuring message to customers. When they can sense the staff member’s confidence, they trust that he or she is knowledgeable, useful, and willing to help. Making friendly connections with customers is just one part of the equation. You also want them to know that they can depend on the company to deliver quality support.

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