In today’s competitive marketplace, firms need to spend millions of dollars in advertising campaigns and address in-depth market segmentation to direct customers towards specific purchase decisions. As consumers become more sophisticated and demanding, firms need to focus on a more balanced attention to customer acquisition and retention, which is attainable through the development of suitable relationships with key customer segments.
Building a rapport with customers is vital to a firm’s profitability. In this context, businesses focus primarily on customer knowledge aiming to develop long-term relationships with their customers and employ a broad and deep interest in their needs and demands. This customer-centric approach is widely developed through relationship marketing that views the initial rapport with the customer as the beginning of a long-term relationship in which mutual trust and commitment will grow
To develop outstanding customer rapport that can take customer relationships beyond customer satisfaction, firms need to (1) find common views, (2) be good listeners, (3) be positive and (4) use humor. In particular:
(1) Find common views: Research suggests that customers, in majority, base their purchasing decisions on who they are buying from, not what they are buying. Generally, customers feel closer to firms that share common views with. They need to feel a connection with the firm and its people that goes beyond being customers. In this context, strong brand name is closely related to strong customer relationships, and therefore, the firms’ representatives need to find common grounds with each customer separately so that each customer feels unique.
(2) Be good listeners: Customers love to talk about their needs and wants. Good firm representatives should be able to listen to their clients; understand them; giving them his/her full attention; making them feel important. In this relationship, the customer is the driving force and the firm has to follow because without customers there will be no business to operate, no profitability and, ultimately, no firm.
(3) Be positive: Customers love to do business with firm representatives that are positive and optimistic. In general, positive attitude makes people feel more active and alert and, in the context of business, this may lead to happy and loyal customers, and ultimately, to increased sales and profitability.
(4) Use humor: A dry sense of humor and the right instincts about when to use it can open the door for establishing long-term customer relationships. Humor eases tensions and enables customers to see the human side of the firm by breaking down mental barriers.
Building trust with customers is also vital to a business’s success. To build trust with a customer, firms may employ numerous strategies including the personalities of their sales force, being responsive to customer complaints and admitting a potential problem. When salespeople are knowledgeable, courteous, pleasant and willing to help their customers, in response customers trust them and feel they can ask for their advice and help anytime for anything. When a firm handles customer complaints in a responsive and responsible way, customers feel they can have someone to listen to their problem, even if they are not right to complain in the first place. When customers detect a particular problem and firms admit it, it’s perhaps the best way for firms to build trust with their customers. Customers need to know the truth about anything that is going on in a company, good or bad. Therefore, firms need to be ready to give reasonable and honest explanations.
Finally, as in all types of relationships, the first impression of a customer about a firm and its products and services can be the cornerstone of how the relationship will evolve in the future. Salespeople should be able to get a feel about their customers’ needs and wants so that they understand the customer’s buying style. There are customers that enter the store, buy the product and leave. These customers do not need more than a five-minute presentation and interaction with a salesperson. However, if they are bombarded by an overly friendly salesperson, their first impression about the salesman, the store and the firm will be negative. Generally, first impressions are lasting impressions and in such competitive business environment, firms cannot afford to lose customers. Businesses should heavily invest in building a good initial rapport that will lead to trust in the long run.