Connect with your customers. Don’t just offer them great customer service. Don’t just serve them great food and drinks. Don’t just be polite and friendly with them.
Take the next step and connect with them. Know their names, what they do for a living, what is their favourite activity, ask them about things that they are willing to discuss with you.
When a customer is connected with you and your business, you have achieved more than you can imagine. They will return to your business, spend more, advertise you, support you when necessary, cover some mistakes you may make, offer you honest feedback, bring their friends and family. They will feel that they are part of your business and will care about your business like they would care about theirs.
When I was managing hospitality operations, the main target I was always setting to my staff was to make connections with the customers. It was at the top of the things they were asked to achieve during their shift.
It is unquestionable and fairly expected that a business has to offer great customer service, food and drinks, and any other products and services. But you exceed customers expectations when you connect with them, it is another level of customer treatment.
In order to achieve customer connections of high quality, you need to know how to communicate in the right method and the ways of building rapport with them.
Learn how to communicate with your customers
How to avoid miscommunication with your customers
When you communicate with another person this involves transmitting opinions, ideas and information. You must have experienced cases of miscommunication between people many times in your life. There are specific reasons behind this which include:
- People don’t actually listen to each other
This is basically a term called active listening; you pay attention to the other person and listen carefully what they say. It’s that simple.
But as you know it’s not happening at all times and the results can even be catastrophic in specific cases.
For example, if you don’t listen to a customer saying that they have a nut allergy, your lack of attention may actually them if you offer them the wrong item.
- The communication is not clear.
The message that someone is trying to pass to the other person might not be clear because the person transmitting it, is not using the right words, method of communication or does not really know what they are trying to say.
It might even be the case that the person who receives the message has a difficulty in understanding the information due to lack of knowledge or other factors like a disability or inappropriate method of communication used.
- They don’t use the feedback provided.
When someone is offering their opinion to another person about something, it classes as feedback.
Especially in a business environment when a customer is expressing their opinion about a product or service, they actually offer feedback about it.
If the other person does not listen carefully and take it on board, the feedback provided is finally not utilised, goes completely wasted and it can be really harmful in particular cases.
Your goal is to avoid all the above in order to have effective communication with your customers. It goes without saying that it is key to your business and its future.
Make it a basic expectation for yourself and your staff to know the principles of effective communication with your customers. It is fundamental and it can be really critical for you and your business.
Methods of communication
There are 3 main methods of communication.
This method includes face to face conversations or discussions over the phone.
A basic element for achieving successful verbal communication is active listening, where you need to concentrate fully to the speaker in order to be able to receive the right message and process the information shared.
The message shared can be impacted by the choice of words, tone of the speaker’s voice and pace of speech.
This method is mainly based on the body language of the people involved in the communication.
It includes eye contact, body posture, movement of arms and legs and facial expressions like smile or frown. Identifying the body language signs and knowing how to interpret them, is critical for the outcome of the communication.
Usually people say more with their body rather than the words they use. But you need to give full attention to the physical image of the other person ion order to discover the messages they transmit.
This includes any written ways used like a letter, an email, a review on a digital platform or a comment on social media.
Critical elements of this method are the chosen words, the style of writing and technical components like the font or colour of the letters. When you use this method, avoid spelling mistakes and always double-check your answer before sending it away, to confirm that you are satisfied with what you have written.
Remember: “SCRIPTA MANENT”; spoken words fly away, written words stay forever!
The 7-38-55 rule of communication
This a basic rule you always need to remember when you communicate with other people. This rule says the following:
- Just 7% of the message we try to pass to other person is delivered by the words we use.
- A good 38% of the message is delivered by the tone of voice we use.
- A massive 55% of the message is delivered by the body language in use.
Basically, what this rule indicates is that the words play a small role to the final message we are trying to communicate. The tone of voice and mainly the body language we use are the factors that specify how and what message we deliver.
Test it with someone: choose a specific message to communicate; now use the right words with the wrong tone of voice and non-appropriate body language.
Can you see what happens? Your message is not the one you were initially planning to deliver and the outcome of the other person’s understanding of what you just told them, is completely different from what you were aiming for.
Use 7-38-55 rule of communication in all your daily communications with all the people you interact. Teach it to your staff as well. You will win at the end, believe me.
How to build rapport with your customers
Building rapport with your customers will lead to connecting with them. As mentioned before, this should be your main priority daily.
The more customer connections you make, the stronger the foundation of your customer base becomes and the more successful your business will become.
Let’s check together some basic and simple ways to build rapport with your customers.
Have a friendly and helpful manner.
Be ready to answer their questions in a friendly way and offer them the support they are looking for so they can choose the right product and service from your business.
You also need to answer any other appropriate question they make, if you know the answer of course, as this will make them feel thankful and grateful towards you and your business.
Learn their names and the products they are using
Think of yourself now; how amazing you feel when you enter a store, the staff greets you with your name and they offer you the coffee you are drinking before you ask them!
Do the same with your customers, it’s definitely a WOW factor there.
Make them feel that you are interested in what they are saying
There is nothing worse than realizing that the person you are speaking to, is not interested in what you are trying to say to them.
I’m sure at that point you hate them.
Don’t ever make your customers hate you. Always show interest in their words and stories. It’s a clever tactic to try to build on what they have already said and any ideas they have shared with you.
Use positive and appropriate body language
Remember the 7-38-55 rule of communication, body language can change completely the message you are trying to communicate but can also create the opposite feelings and emotions from the ones you are aiming for, to the person you are interacting with.
This includes balanced eye contact but not stare, lean forward when the customer is sitting and have an open posture to make them feel comfortable.
Mainly use open questions
An open question usually starts with: what, how, who, where, describe, tell me about, explain, etc.
Open questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, that’s why they are ideal for connecting with your customers, as they offer the opportunity for a nice 2-sided conversation.
A helpful tip is to try to find links between any common ground you have, based on what you might know about them or the things they have already mentioned previously.
Never, ever be judgemental with your customers
It’s a bad tactic to judge your customers by the way they look, move, dress, or speak. Don’t judge them by the person they are accompanied by.
Never use stereotypes and preconceived ideas to categorise them. This is a loser’s game and the only thing you will finally achieve is to harm your business and its reputation.
Compliment your customers but be genuine
Everyone likes a compliment. But no one likes a fake or pushed compliment. Be genuine when you compliment customers.
Apart from the fact that they might be able to tell if you don’t really mean it, you will find yourself in a very uncomfortable situation, feeling awkward about it.
Be mindful with compliments you are using and the way they are communicated, because they might have the complete opposite outcome form the one you were planning for.
Communication is key to all aspects in life. Achieving the best possible levels of communication will only lead to great results for your business.
Make it your main target to educate yourself and your staff to all the methods of communication described above, it will only help and support your efforts to achieve success for your business.