A row of people in business attire speaking into headsets and smiling.

Rapport is the foundation of any good customer relationship. It allows customers to trust you and your business and feel confident that you have their best interests at heart. It can even go as far as predicting your company’s financial success. 

Research reveals 73% of companies with an above-average customer experience outpace their competitors in terms of financial performance. Meanwhile, customers leaving businesses owing to poor service end up costing U.S. corporations a staggering $1.6 trillion. While it’s especially important for managers, salespeople, and customer service representatives who deal with customers daily, even a CEO or business owner can benefit from developing a better rapport with clients. Here are some simple steps to build a connection with any customer.

Introduce Yourself 

Whenever you meet someone new, take the time to introduce yourself so they can properly place a name on your face, voice, or even your virtual messages. 

Every situation is different, but here are some tips for various interactions:

  • Emails: Include your name and title in your signature. 
  • Phone calls: Start the call by reintroducing yourself, even if the customer has spoken to you before. This will help them put a name to a face and vice versa. Likewise, follow a script when possible to sound polished and professional.
  • Video chats: If you are on a video call, turn on your webcam so the client can see your face, as it helps with trust and makes the interaction feel personal.
  • In-person meetings: Introduce yourself and shake the customer’s hand.

While it can be nerve-wracking to meet someone new, stay on script and be as professional as possible. By introducing yourself, you immediately make the interaction more personal and get a good foot in the door for building rapport.

Address Customers By Their Preferred Name 

If you don’t know someone’s preferred name, simply ask them. It shows that you are interested in being respectful and want to ensure you get it right. For example, you could say, “What name do you prefer I use?” If you make a mistake, apologize and correct yourself. You’re only human, and mistakes happen. The important thing is that you are taking steps to be respectful and inclusive.

Likewise, learning how to identify and overcome unconscious bias in customer service is important in building rapport with customers. By learning how to identify and overcome unconscious bias, we can ensure that we are treating all customers fairly and with respect.

Show Empathy 

Empathy is the ability to understand and feel what another person is feeling, but is often mistaken for sympathy, which is simply caring about the customer’s feelings. 

When a customer tells you about a bad experience they had with your product, feeling empathy would be understanding how they feel and sharing that feeling. On the other hand, sympathy would look like apologizing for this mistake and not expanding further.

While both empathy and sympathy are important, empathy is vital in building rapport with customers. After all, if you can’t empathize with your customers, how can you provide them with the best possible experience?

There are a few ways to show empathy during a customer service interaction:

  • Listen to the customer and let them know you understand their problem;
  • Repeat what the customer said to show that you have been actively listening;
  • Avoid using phrases like “I know how you feel” or “If I were you…” as this can come across as insincere;
  • Use positive body language, such as making eye contact and nodding your head;
  • Follow up with the customer after the interaction to make sure their problem has been resolved.

By trying to form a genuine connection with the customer and showing that you understand their problem, you build a level of emotional rapport that is essential for a positive customer service experience.

Practice Effective Communication

It’s important to remember that communication is a two-way street. To build rapport with customers, you need to be an effective listener and speaker. This means being able to understand what the customer is saying and responding in a way that is clear and concise. You can resolve conflicts, build relationships, and eliminate agent mistakes with the right understanding of communication.

Some tips for effective communication include:

  • Avoid jargon and technical terms;
  • Use positive, affirming language;
  • Ask questions to clarify anything you don’t understand.

For a business that relies on call centers for customer service, implementing new technologies, like live chat or AI, can also help to improve communication and build rapport with customers. Luckily there is various communication software to choose from, such as:

  • Intelligent call routing — This technology automatically directs calls to the agent best suited to deal with the customer’s inquiry.
  • Call monitoring solutions —  These solutions allow managers to listen in on calls and provide feedback to agents on their performance.
  • Real-time guidance applications —  These solutions give agents step-by-step instructions on how to deal with customer inquiries.

Enhancing communication with AI helps create a more seamless and human experience for customers by allowing you to review, revisit, and learn from customer interactions.

Be Honest

Being honest with your customers shows that you respect and value their business. It also builds trust, which is essential for a positive long-term relationship. There are a few ways to be honest with customers:

  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep;
  • Be upfront about any potential problems or delays;
  • Be truthful about your company’s policies, procedures, and capabilities.

It can be tempting to try to gloss over any potential problems in customer service interactions, but instead, open up a dialogue with the customer. This way, you can work together to find a satisfactory solution for both parties.

Other ways to encourage honesty from customers include:

By addressing the role honesty plays in building customer rapport, you can create a more open and transparent relationship with your customers. This will result in a better overall experience for everyone involved.

Own Up To Your Wrong-doings

At some point, you’re bound to make a mistake. It could be something as small as an accidental miscommunication or something more serious, like an error in billing or product shipment. When this happens, it’s important to own up to your wrongdoings and apologize to the customer.

A sincere apology can go a long way in diffusing a tense customer service interaction and building rapport. While not every situation can be salvaged, an apology can help smooth things over and prevent further damage to the relationship.

Here are a few everyday situations where an apology might be needed and how to go about it:

  • When you make a mistake, admit it and apologize;
  • If a customer is unhappy with a product or service, offer to make it right;
  • If you need to put a customer on hold or transfer their call, apologize for the wait time and thank them for their patience;
  • Going above and beyond with goodwill gestures, such as a discount on the customer’s next purchase or a freebie thrown in with their order.

In each case, a heartfelt apology can help build rapport with the customer. By admitting when you’ve made a mistake, you show that you’re human and that you care about providing a good experience.

In most cases, customers want to be treated fairly and respectfully. With practice, patience, and understanding, this can be an easy achievement, and you can build rapport with even the most challenging customers.