Building Rapport and Maintaining Meaningful Relationships

Posted: June 9, 2012 in Customer Service

From an article published by





Original article available at

If your busi­ness relies on sat­is­fied cus­tomers, your staff needs to under­stand how to build rap­port and main­tain a pos­i­tive rela­tion­ship with cus­tomers. Accord­ing to Glenn D. Porter in Forbes, “Build­ing rap­port means forg­ing a trusted rela­tion­ship. It means being an adviser, not just a ven­dor. Rap­port, ulti­mately, is about empathy—and you can’t fake empathy.”

How do you build rap­port with customers?

Use the Customer’s Name

There is a fine line between using a customer’s name to show you are lis­ten­ing and using a customer’s name because you were told to always address the cus­tomer by name. Both may be true, but employ­ees need to be trained to incor­po­rate the customer’s name into their ser­vice routine.

The other day, I was in Star­bucks and ordered my drink. I gave my name as usual, and after the cashier wrote my order and name on the cup, he looked up at me and asked, “May I get you any­thing to eat this morn­ing, Sarah?” Now that is the way to use someone’s name! I didn’t want any­thing to eat, but my Star­bucks expe­ri­ence left a last­ing impres­sion on me.

Lis­ten to Your Customers

After work­ing in one job role repeat­edly, it gets dif­fi­cult not to assume you imme­di­ately know the answer to your customer’s ques­tion or the solu­tion to his or her prob­lem. Employ­ees need to be trained to first lis­ten, and then respond.

The prob­lem with try­ing to get ahead of a customer’s prob­lem is you may be solv­ing the wrong prob­lem or answer­ing the wrong ques­tion. If employ­ees spend all of their time on the wrong solu­tion, it will end up tak­ing longer than if they waited, con­firmed the issue or ques­tion, and then took action to com­plete the customer’s inquiry. The impor­tance of lis­ten­ing in build­ing rap­port is explained in more detail in another blog post on build­ing rapport.

Get to Know Your Customers

There’s no rea­son why your employ­ees can’t attempt to relate to each of your cus­tomers. Not every cus­tomer will be recep­tive to this, but oth­ers will be pleas­antly sur­prised to see some­one gen­uinely inter­ested in inter­act­ing with them. A script or canned response will ruin this effort, so go through sam­ple exer­cises to get employ­ees com­fort­able start­ing up a friendly and warm conversation.

Accord­ing to Don Pep­pers in Fast Com­pany, “Great ser­vice hap­pens only when you relate to your cus­tomers ‘one to one.’ To do that, you have to iden­tify your cus­tomers, dif­fer­en­ti­ate them, inter­act with them, and finally, cus­tomize your prod­ucts or ser­vices to meet their needs.”


There’s no use in focus­ing on build­ing rap­port if you’re not going to main­tain the rela­tion­ships you have worked hard to build. Once you have built rap­port, you need to develop a pro­gram for fos­ter­ing those relationships.

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