11 tactics for building better customer rapport
11 tactics for building better customer rapport
How well do you really need to get on with your customers? Let’s face it, there’s a lot of them, and in the space of just a few minutes it’s pretty hard to do anything except the simple niceties. Except, building customer rapport is basically comes down to building trust. It’s also a question of being human. Let’s face it, when was the last time you had good rapport with a chat bot?
But there are a few easy tactics you can use to build good customer rapport, even with the fastest of phone calls and the most difficult of customers.
1. Start by knowing who they are
It’s hard to build rapport with someone you don’t know. Integrate your CRM with your call centre software so that every time a customer calls your agents can greet them by name and understand their purchase history and previous interactions with your company. For your customer it’s like being welcomed by an old friend. They feel recognised and valued.
2. Building customer rapport means actively listening
Showing that you are listening is almost as important as actually listening. Just ask my children how many times I tell them to look at me, so I know they’re paying attention. (“Look at moiye, look at moiye, look at moiye…”)
Over the phone there’s obviously no eye contact, so active listening is the next best thing. Repeat back key things they have said, or rephrase their key concerns to show you aren’t just parroting back to them, but actively trying to understand their concerns.
3. Act with empathy
Hand in hand with active listening is acting with empathy. Empathy is key to building customer rapport because it shows you understand the customer and understand their concerns and feelings. Statements like:
“I want to make sure I really understand what you’re telling me. I’m hearing that…”
“Thank you for alerting us about this, let’s get it sorted as quickly as possible.”
“I can certainly assist you…”
4. Use their name
Using their name is of those small, but supremely important human touches, especially when it comes to customer service. It shows them they are valued as a person, and aren’t just another nameless, faceless customer in a queue. Just be careful not to overuse it in every sentence.
5. Make their problem your problem
“A problem shared is a problem halved.” Show you customers you are there for them taking on their problem and resolving their issues with empathy and understanding. And when the issue is resolved, be sure to make notes of it in their file. The next agent who talks to them can refer to the issue and show that you, as a business, still care. “And how are you going with the thing is it working well now? Any more issues with the thing?”
6. Use positive language
Turn your negatives into positives. It’s the language equivalent of turning lemons into lemonade. Instead of “I don’t know,” try “Let me find out for you,” or “Let me consult with my colleague.”
7. There’s nothing wrong with an apology
Don’t be afraid to say sorry. And when you do, own the mistakes. It may not have been your fault but as the voice of the company you need to take responsibility for it.
“I’m sorry that didn’t work for you, we’ll get it fixed straight away.”
“How frustrating for you. We will fix that for you of course.”
Don’t use language that is a false apology, or an apology that absolves your company from guilt. Customers will see through it in a heart beat. Non-apologetic apologies like:
• I’m sorry you feel that way
• It’s unfortunate that it happened
• We apologise for the inconvenience
… will often do more harm than good.
8. Don’t leave them waiting – before, during or after their call
Just like no one built rapport with a chat bot, no one built rapport with a queue. Don’t leave customers in the wasteland of your on hold messages, use software that gets their calls seen to as quickly as possible.
And then, don’t leave them hanging on the line as you transfer them around the business or put them on hold to find an answer. Your call centre needs to be a knowledge centre and resolve the call as fast as possible.
And finally, if a call back is required make sure it’s completed when you promised it would be. Use scheduling tools to remind agents of their responsibilities and where possible use the same agent to call back for consistency of service.
9. Start again
You’ve had a tough call. In fact it was brutal. But you got there in the end. The important thing now is to not let your frustration or exhaustion spill over into the next call. It’s hard to build customer rapport when you start angry. Take a couple of minutes to breathe deeply, make a cup of tea, stretch a little and start again, fresh.
In the same vein as ‘fake it until you make it’, smiling can make everything better. Even when it’s not. As actors and radio announces have known forever, you can ‘hear’ a smile. The voice lifts and your customers hear a much happier version of you.
11. Don’t be afraid to go off script
Scripts are important, but if you rigidly stick to one when it doesn’t quite address the customer’s questions, they will notice. It’s like trying to interview a politician, and getting the run-around. “Yes, I know you’re all for jobs and growth but what did you have for lunch?,” I can hear Leigh Sales asking exasperatedly.
Building customer rapport takes your relationship with them beyond being simply transactional. Rapport creates a bond and a bond creates loyalty. And, as we all know, customer loyalty is essential for customer retention.