Communicating effectively with customers impacts the relationship you have with them. Customers are more willing to do business with someone they have a positive relationship with. To create that positive relationship, you need to build rapport and establish your credibility with your customers.
Rapport is mutual trust in a relationship. It is something that must be built and maintained, not something that happens as a result of one or two interactions. There are four steps to building rapport with customers:
Break the ice. When you first meet a customer, take a minute or two to get to know him or her. Don't start the conversation immediately with business talk. You want to put the customer at ease and help him or her relate to you first. It only takes a minute to comment about something general. Some possible ice breaker topics are:
- The weather.
- Mutual friends.
- Families and/or pets.
- Common business interests.
Avoid talking about religion or politics.
Listen actively. Focus on what the customer is saying, listening for clues about what he or she needs or wants. Customers will respond to someone they know is paying attention to what they are saying.
Mirror the customer. If you share some common mannerisms, like posture and tone of voice, the customer will feel more comfortable communicating with you.
Be sincere. If you are not being sincere when you talk to the customer, he or she will pick up on that and any rapport that has already been established will be gone.
- Be yourself.
- Show you are genuinely committed to your customers.
- Treat customers with genuine respect.
Your customers will be genuine and respectful back to you.
Your customers need to know not only that you will do as you say you will do, but also that you have the skill, knowledge, and resources to do it. Credibility with your customers will go a long way to establishing a trusting relationship. Some ways to do this include:
- When asked a question you don't know the answer to, say, "I don't know, but I will find out and get back to you."
- Follow up on your promises and keep your customer apprised of the progress you are making, especially if it is taking longer than you first anticipated.
- Admit it when you are wrong. Accepting responsibility for a mistake and then working to correct that mistake will establish your credibility quickly in the mind of your customer.
- When voicing opinions or values, be consistent and sincere. Don't waver in an effort to gain an advantage or to be liked by more people.
- Always behave in a professional manner by not gossiping.
Not only will your credibility serve you well with your external customers, but your internal customers will also benefit from it. By establishing your credibility, you become a resource for your company. Your colleagues will come to you with questions, or refer their customers to you!