Building rapport with customers
how bad customer service masquerades as good customer service.
We’re told that building relationships and rapport with our customers is all important, if we treat them well, give them great service they’ll be loyal to us. I think that’s generally true, we would all rather work with people who are pleasant to us after all. But I’ve also started to think that some businesses are getting it a bit wrong; they’re crossing a line and I for one find it very uncomfortable. To show you what I mean here’s a few examples of slander, gossip and insincerity all experienced in major high street retailers during the past few months:
I was doing a bit of shopping in a major supermarket. The man in front of me bought a bottle of wine, a case of beer, some burgers and sausages. He showed no overt signs of alcoholism and I assumed he was having a barbecue. He exchanged a few pleasant words with the checkout lady as he packed away his purchases before smiling at both of us as he said goodbye. She greeted me and, leaning forward, commented in a knowing way that “He likes his booze”. I was buying a few bottles of wine for a dinner party and a random few ingredients I had forgotten. As I paid and left I wondered what she was saying about me.
In a different branch of the same supermarket chain at the weekend a younger checkout lady I had never even seen before gave me chapter and verse on her romantic entanglements, which involved a “love-rat” (her words) colleague at the same store.
I had my eyes tested and as he was firing puffs of air into my eyes the optician asked if I had taken the afternoon off. Distracted though I was I responded politely. He asked the same question as he was writing up my prescription 15 minutes later. And then again as he showed me out. He didn’t care, why should he? But I would have preferred him to concentrate on my eyes rather than trying to make small talk.
It’s difficult, I know, because there are many people who love to chat and for some this may be the only social interaction they have all day. Personally, I would rather exchange a few words than deal with a blank faced automaton. But I do think the conversation needs to be appropriate and sincere and that’s where the retailers in question went wrong. After all, you can’t force rapport, it’s either there or it isn’t and if you’re having to work hard at it then it’s probably not happening. What’s wrong with “just” being respectful, pleasant, professional, sincere and efficient? It’s certainly all I need.