3 minute read

How to Build Rapport with Your Customers


There is an old adage attributed to Sir Austen Chamberlain, a British politician who heard it from a British diplomat who had spent time China. The old diplomat told him that there was a Chinese curse which stated, “May you live in interesting times.”

We are certainly living in interesting times. Think back over the last 20 years. Do you remember when you first heard the term, “world wide web”? Do you remember when websites first allowed you to create customized home page portals? They branded these portal pages with the prefix “my” so your experience of the world wide web was customized to you. It sounds passé now, but at the time it was innovative. Looking back over the last 20 years, it’s easy to see we’ve moved into a time of mass disruption and customization of our experience.

We used to buy a whole record or cassette so we could hear two songs. Then file sharing came along and we just downloaded the songs we wanted. We used to go to movie theaters to see movies. Now we have services that allow us to watch almost any movie on-demand without having to get off the couch. We used to believe what the evening news told us. Now we only allow sources we agree with into our news feeds.

These are interesting times indeed.

We live in a time where it’s possible to have hundreds of LinkedIn connections, thousands of Twitter or Instagram followers, and see everything our friends are doing on Facebook. Statistics show that about 40% of the world has an Internet connection. It seems connecting with others is easier than ever. 

However, an article published last year on Fortune.com showed that for all of this connection, people report being lonelier than they were 30 or 40 years ago. The article also stated a researcher from the University of Chicago named Dr. John Cacioppo theorizes that these feelings of loneliness may be an aversive biological queue for us to rejoin the social group.

A quick review:

  • Over the last twenty years, individuals have been able to leverage the Internet to customize their experience.
  • People are more connected than ever, yet lonelier than ever.
  • Biology may be pushing us to reconnect with the group.

Why This Matters

Individuals are creating electronic experiences that reinforce their ideal experience of the world. At the same time, they’re hungering for the experience of truly connecting with other people. These are the same people who are walking into your offices, your banks, and your credit unions. These are the people in your lobbies and on the phone with you.  

Today, you have the opportunity to distinguish yourself and your organization from your competitors, improve job satisfaction, and be more successful by developing your ability to connect and build rapport with your customers and coworkers. What’s missing in today’s marketplace is the human touch. What’s missing is rapport and connection.

Connect with Others and Build Rapport

Rapport is the process of coming into agreement with another person on how you will relate in a harmonious way. Rapport can be professional, personal, or both. The greater rapport you have with another person the more satisfying the relationship. It isn’t a technique or a tactic it’s simply a way of interacting with others.

When we establish rapport with others, we open the door to better communication and more engagement in our initiatives. With open communication and trust, your clients share more information about themselves, who they are, their likes and dislikes, and their fears.

How to Build Rapport and Improve Communication

When you seek to build rapport with someone, focus on O.L.E.:

  • Be OBSERVANT of the language and behaviors the other person is using.
  • Actively LISTEN to what they say and how they say it.
  • Practice EMPATHY.

Build Trust and Create More Engagement

When there is trust and rapport, the doors of engagement open up. Customers are more willing to let you know what’s going on and what they need from you. They don’t just disappear from your organization and become someone else’s customer because there’s a relationship. They’re invested.

We Are Living in Interesting Times

Increased customization, mass disruption of industries, and ubiquitous electronic connection leave us wondering what will happen next. What hasn’t changed is human nature. We all need to be appreciated and treated with respect. You can’t always be out in front of the next new technology, but during interesting times, your ability to connect and build rapport with your customers is what they truly want, and it may be what differentiates you from the competition
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