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Delivering excellent customer service goes far beyond having an encyclopedic knowledge of your organization’s services and products – though that’s an important factor, of course. It’s also about more than your willingness to take ownership of customer questions and problems in order to ensure issues are being handled to the satisfaction of the customer. And, great customer service is about more than operating in a formal and professional manner.

In addition to interacting with a customer service representative who is knowledgeable, professional, and helpful, customers want to work with someone who is friendly. According to Microsoft, nearly one-third of customers rank a service representative’s knowledge and friendliness as the most important part of customer service. Harris Interactive reports that 73% of consumers consider the friendliness of the organization’s employees or service representatives when deciding to do repeat business with a company. This means that customer retention, for many representatives, can be as simple as delivering friendly service to your customers.

Building Rapport

Beyond typical “good customer service”

Why, then, isn’t every organization scrambling to ensure that their employees are taking this extra step to lock in customer loyalty and save money through retaining existing customers rather than needing to recruit anew? The answer is likely that many organizations are thinking primarily about their representatives’ ability to be professional and knowledgeable. While these are certainly important components in delivering customer service, they aren’t all the pieces to the puzzle.

When competing against organizations that deliver products and/or services of a similar quality who have representatives who are, in addition to being knowledgeable and professional, obviously friendly to the customer, the organization with friendly employees will win out every time! Friendliness doesn’t need to come at the cost of professionalism, either, given that it’s very possible to be both friendly and professional.

Show the customer you care

One of the most effective ways to ensure you are being friendly to customers is by building rapport with them. Building rapport with a customer involves establishing a strong connection with your customer that isn’t necessarily business-related. This might sound counterintuitive given that your goal when interacting with customers is to address a business-related objective. Sometimes, though, it’s necessary to deviate slightly from the issue at hand in order to accomplish larger goals.

Show You Care

Making efforts to build rapport communicates to the customer that you are showing interest in them as a person. This also helps the customer develop trust with you and, in turn, your company. This trust is what ensures that your customers remain loyal to your organization and return to do business time and time again.

Rapport building versus time wasting

The key skill that customer service representatives should learn is how to identify opportunities to build rapport when speaking with customers. You should begin looking for these opportunities immediately once your interaction begins. This might feel unfamiliar; after all, talking to the customer about themselves might seem to go against what you were taught in training. You’ve likely been told that you should aim to keep customers on topic to avoid wasting precious time that could be spent helping additional customers.

While you shouldn’t take the suggestion to build rapport with customers as a free pass to frequently engage in obviously off-topic discussions that don’t serve to build trust with the customer, in this case, a small amount of extra time with the customer to build rapport is worth the time. Additionally, it’s important to make a distinction between rapport building and general chit-chat with customers. Rapport building has a set purpose: demonstrate to the customer that you’re interested in them as a person so that you can provide the best possible service and build trust. General chit-chat is a time-waster with no larger objective.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re aiming to build rapport with a customer:

  • Use your best listening skills to find opportunities to begin building rapport
  • Start building rapport as soon as possible in your interaction
  • Determine the customer’s interests and connect over shared interests when possible

Beyond these helpful suggestions, there are additional ways to ensure the rapport you built is continued over numerous interactions with the same customer. To learn more about how you can continue to develop these relationships with customers, contact a ServiceSkills representative and request a free demo of the Service Matters Roundtable Series. This unique training series calls upon six Service Superstars to deliver 11 effective peer-to-peer courses in the form of roundtable discussions. In place of traditional instructor-led training, these courses provide engaging and accessible real-world information to employees who are seeking to elevate their service and become indispensable to their organizations.

Be sure to check out these additional videos and posts from our ServiceMatters Roundtable from the team at ServiceSkills: