Have you noticed how we are able to just ‘click’ with some people, and with others it’s a real uphill struggle? It’s all to do with rapport. The ability to build rapport is key in any business, not just hospitality. It has such an impact on our relationships – not only with customers, but also with suppliers and staff, in turn making our job a lot easier and more enjoyable.
What is rapport
Rapport is a relationship of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people. It is what happens at an unconscious level that makes us ‘click’ and is enhanced by a perception of likeness and liking. It includes the ability to see the other person’s point of view (even though you may not necessarily agree with it), and is a vital element in any form of communication, including the business context.
Indicators of good rapport include
Similar body posture
Gesture in similar ways
Same rhythm in movement and speech
Breathing levels are similar
Why is rapport important?
How often have you heard “She was so rude”, “He just didn’t seem to care”, “You don’t understand”, “I’m not sure if I trust him”. Rapport gives the ability to relate to others in a way that creates a climate of trust, openness and understanding, it is a key part of building relationships in the business world. Having the ability to build rapport helps with:
Customers: All things being equal people will have a better experience being served by people they can relate to, and are more likely to do business with people with whom they have good rapport. And by maintaining that rapport throughout will enable us to identify what our customers really want, to help us provide the best services we can, and ultimately increase our chances of further business.
Suppliers: Be it your butcher, your plumber or your accountant, having a good rapport usually leads to better service, puts us in a better position to negotiate when we need to, and makes it easier to ask for assistance when it’s needed.
Your team: Having great rapport with your team will open up 2 way communication and builds trust. You’ll get the best out of them if they feel comfortable to make suggestions, they are less likely to be critical of ideas offered to them, and for you it will be a lot easier to call in a favour when it’s needed. And it makes for a more pleasant working environment all round.
And of course it’s important that our staff know how to build rapport too, so they can do their job effectively.
How to achieve great rapport
Think of people with whom you already have great rapport. What is it you do, how do you communicate and what do you talk about? All these factors can give us a clue to the key aspects of building rapport. But what can you do in business if it doesn’t occur naturally? You need to pay conscious attention to matching or mirroring (not mimicking) those elements that are part of natural rapport.
Research indicates that only 7% of our communication comes from the words that we use – for example the use of common expressions, terminology, etc.
How we say things – that is our tone, volume, pitch, emphasis – accounts for a further 38%.
And a massive 55% comes from a person’s appearance and physiology – how you sit or stand, your facial expressions and so on.
This means that 93% is unconscious.
So how do we make use of these factors? Well, the closer we can match these (not mimic) to the other person the more likely we are to build rapport.
Let’s take each in turn:
A part of building rapport is respecting the state, style and feelings of others – essential factors when dealing with 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 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 sounding bored or impatient. The closer you match the other person’s tone the greater the degree of rapport.
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 over dressed. 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. 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.
Of course, the more you know and understand your perfect customer, the easier it will be to match these aspects, and build great rapport – and attract and keep the customers you want!
And by remembering that the tone and physiology will be more unconscious ways to build rapport, next time you are in disagreement with someone (disagreement will usually be based on words i.e. just 7%) 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.
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 your 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. 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.