6 Techniques for Building Customer Rapport

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The third Thurs­day of every new quar­ter we focus spe­cial time on get­ting to know our cus­tomer. In fact, this spe­cial day is named “Get to Know Your Cus­tomer Day.” For our first install­ment on this day for 2014, we thought we’d dis­cuss the art of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with our customers.

We know that as Cus­tomer Ser­vice Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, or should we say good com­mu­ni­ca­tion, is the end all and be all of our jobs. It means cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion, a new sale, a repeat sale, cross sale, and word-of-mouth adver­tis­ing for the clients we serve.

While we rely heav­ily on our scripted responses for usual inquiries and con­cerns, every call that we take from a cus­tomer is an oppor­tu­nity to build rap­port, com­mu­ni­cate more effec­tively, and impact our bot­tom line.

Have you looked at your rap­port build­ing skills lately? Here are six tips to keep it up there with the best of them:

Use the customer’s name.

A basic, first step to “per­son­al­ize” ser­vice to indi­vid­ual cus­tomers is to use their name through­out the entire call. There is a dif­fer­ence between say­ing “Hi, what can I do for you today?” and “Hi, Jodi, what can I do for you today?”  This gives the cus­tomer an instant feel­ing that she is being attended to, and that some­body is lis­ten­ing, even if she prob­a­bly knows that she may be the nth cus­tomer you han­dled that day. She will appre­ci­ate being treated like a per­son, not a ran­dom caller.

Say please and thank you.

Some things never go out of fash­ion. Basic courtesies/pleasantries in com­mu­ni­ca­tion is one of them. Cus­tomers appre­ci­ate that.

Explain your rea­son for say­ing no.

While we all want to please the cus­tomer and give them what they need, and some­times even want, we can only bend back­wards up to a point. Do not over promise. Say no if you must; but, there is a way of say­ing no with­out being offen­sive, or with­out mak­ing the cus­tomer feel that he is being rejected. Politely and clearly explain why you are say­ing no, and stand by it. You can­not flip flop with no’s, because you might be giv­ing the false idea that you are pur­posely short­chang­ing them.

Show your inter­est in the customer’s needs.

First things first: Lis­ten. I mean REALLY lis­ten. This is most impor­tant when deal­ing with an angry cus­tomer, com­plain­ing over unmet expec­ta­tions. Allow him to let it all out, while tak­ing the time to fig­ure out how you can respond when he is done. Apol­o­gize, at least for the fact that he feels the way he does. Ask ques­tions. Clar­ify his con­cerns. Cus­tomers want you to take their side, and you can build rap­port, even in a not so ideal sit­u­a­tion, by lis­ten­ing and mak­ing them feel your sincerity.

Be empa­thetic to the customer’s feelings.

Tak­ing per­spec­tive, or look­ing at some­thing from the other person’s stand­point, does a lot in build­ing rap­port between a cus­tomer and a cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Address­ing a customer’s con­cern comes from under­stand­ing that con­cern. Try to put your­self in the customer’s shoes. Own his/her prob­lem. Then armed with what you know and the options avail­able, come up with the appro­pri­ate response.

Let the cus­tomer know his or her options.

The cus­tomer made that call that you’re han­dling now because he wants a solu­tion. But some­times the solu­tion that he wants may not always be pos­si­ble. If what he wants, or what he think he needs is not pos­si­ble, tell the cus­tomer what options are avail­able to him, and give advise on the best course of action. That’s being an advi­sor, and cus­tomers appre­ci­ate that.

The point of all these is build­ing rap­port with our cus­tomers. This facil­i­tates good com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which, in turn, results in a dis­tinct brand of ser­vice that cus­tomers will always seek and go back to.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Jodi, thank you for the techniques but these are standard technique which most of us know & follow. It would be great if you can suggest some new techniques.
    S Ganesh.
    Head Business Development.
    Andrew Industries (BMP Division)

  2. Hi S Ganesh,
    Thank you for reading my post and for your comments. It’s good to hear that there is a better understanding of top customer service skills amongst the readership here. But when an article like “Is Customer Service Getting Worse” can get published, then I have to wonder if reminding people of the basics isn’t helpful every now and again… That being said, as I continue to write for this market, I will be sure to touch upon advanced customer service skills in an upcoming post.
    Thanks again,
    Jodi

  3. **I didn’t mean disrespect toward the article “Is Customer Service Getting Worse.” My concern is over the fact that if that is indeed the case, that customer service is getting worse, then should we as CX professionals be revisiting the basics to ensure everyone knows were to start?

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