Building Rapport: Offline and Online

Customers talking to a Relationship Manager du...

Image by GoldMoneyNews via Flickr

Social media has a way of making you believe it’s all about you, but it isn’t.

Working in the financial field for almost 10 years, I learned the importance of building a rapport with one’s customer. They already trusted the company(Brand) enough with their money, but building strong relationships opened up even more opportunities than just being their place of deposit. It was our job to discover other needs and make sure they were met through the variety of products and services offered.  Building a rapport was the key to accessing the information needed, in order to further develop and strengthen the existing relationships.

During my time in banking, Branches were transitioning into being recognized as Stores. The way in which business was conducted changed as well. Customer service became a priority and discovering the needs of the customer was the focus. We wanted to know how they did business, where else they conducted business and if they were satisfied. Majority of the time we got this valuable information without having to ask very many questions; we learned to be great listeners.

Never underestimate the power of a smile, the grasp of a hand or a soft spoken hello, these are the subtle gestures we make that can make a difference in an initial contact. And listening, will afford you with more information than you can imagine.

Ways to build rapport

Offline:

-Introductions:  Be sure to introduce yourself, extend a firm handshake and tell them your name. Make sure they tell you theirs. Then use their name in the conversation. It shows you’re listening, makes them feel important and they will remember you for it.

-Current Events: Know what’s going on. Starting a conversation about a recent game, story on the news or even discussing the weather are good conversation openers. They also get people talking. Once you get them talking, listen and help them transition through the conversation.

-Open-Ended Questions: Yes or no questions will not give you the information needed.  You have to be able to ask questions that will engage them in conversation.  Remember you are there to meet their need(s), not the other way around. Make sure you listen, take mental notes, ask more questions to clarify.

-Recap: Go over what was discussed, what you believe the needs were that they expressed and give them an opportunity to respond.

-Source:  Be a source of information.  Answer questions and if you are not able to assist them, make sure you provide them with information to others that can.  You may not be the source but you can become a valuable resource. 

Online:

-Bios:  are important. Let your audience know something about you. Your expertise, style and brief history.

-Research: Find out a little bit about those who are friending you, read their bio, statuses, frequent their blogs, etc. In banking we called this “knowing your customer”. We paid attention to how they paid their bills (checks, debit card, auto payment, credit card, etc). We also paid attention to how they conducted their banking transactions, some people do not like coming into the bank. They deposit their pay through the ATM or direct deposit, they withdraw cash through the ATM and use customer service number for problem resolution. These findings lead to businesses discovering how to conduct their business. (We explore this more in another post). Some may only use twitter, others facebook and some may not be on either frequently but respond to emails. The key is know how and when to connect.

-Engage: Strike up a conversation. Respond to their tweets, leave a comment on facebook statuses, read comments they might leave on your site and reply. This is a part of listening and it leads to being able to engage. If your audience is one that needs encouragement, inspiration, motivation, provide it.

When you find a commonality build on it. People love doing business with or friending people they can relate to.  “If you wish your message to hit the target, make adjustment to the wind.”

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