Creating rapport with your hospitality business customers

Yesterday, we looked at the principles of building rapport, be that with customers, staff or suppliers within your hospitality business.

 

Words

What we actually talk about and the words we use will go some way to building rapport, so listen out for the terminology others use and try to use their terms rather than yours. But this also extends to showing common interests, common goals and common values.  So assuming you share these let them know, as these can help to bond you together.  A relationship with a customer will be a lot easier if you share something you have in common.

What terminology will your restaurant or hotel customer best relate to? This doesn’t only apply to face to face communication – it also extends to any other forms of communication – so consider this in your marketing messages, on site promotions and any customer notices or information.

 

Tone

A part of building rapport is respecting the state, style and feelings of others – essential factors when dealing with customer complaints, and staff concerns; e.g. if someone is feeling frustrated by poor service show understanding for that frustration.

The biggest impact on this is our tone – Do we indicate an understanding for someone’s complaint rather than sounding defensive?  Do we sound empathetic towards a customer’s frustration instead of sounding irritated by it? And if someone is excited or happy about something, do we also show excitement or happiness, or do we dampen their mood through being apathetic and impatient.  The closer you match the other person’s tone the greater the degree of rapport.

What if they are angry? Should we still match their tone? In a way, yes. What we want to match is the level of energy in the voice. Let’s put this into context. If a customer has a complaint and is angry about this and they then get a placid, calming response, instead of calming the person down, in the first instance it may actually make them worse as it appears patronising and as if they are not being taken seriously. By matching the level of energy and concern in your voice you indicate to the customer that you are taking it seriously, so you’ll get into rapport more quickly. Then (and only then) are you in a position to lead towards a calmer tone.

 

Physiology

I am sure you have experienced a time when you have arrived somewhere and felt instantly out of place because you felt either under dressed or overdressed.  This is just one example of how our appearance matching those of others helps build rapport.  But this aspect also includes the wider and less obvious aspects of our body language, gestures and facial expressions, and can also extend to our actions, and even our breathing.

Next time you are out, just take a look around you and you can easily spot people who are in rapport.  The way they stand or sit will mirror, their facial expressions will be similar and the chances are that when one reaches for their drink or to take a bite of food, the other person will do the same.  So to build rapport, ensure you match the other person – you don’t want to be too obvious about it, but it is surprisingly easy to do this without it appearing as if you are mimicking.

So remembering that the tone and physiology will be more unconscious ways to build rapport, next time you are in disagreement with someone (i.e. the 7% based on words) work on matching the other 93% – their tone and physiology – and you will be amazed at the impact this can have on your ability to reach agreement.

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