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Client success - 11 min READ

How to build rapport with customers & establish trust

14 simple tactics

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Author photo: Charles Nguyen

Charles Nguyen

Director, Strategic Customer Success

Do you consider yourself trustworthy? More importantly: Do your clients consider you trustworthy?

It's just a fact: People are generally less trusting now than they used to be. In fact, when asked whether they agree with the phrase "Most people can be trusted," only 30% of people say yes.

So, because building trust isn’t easy from day one, building rapport with clients takes a lot more skill than it used to.

Fortunately, there are proven ways to build a good rapport with your clients.

That being said, there's no back door or short cut to develop a strong relationship with your customers. If you want to gain people's trust, you'll need to put in the work.

After years in customer service, these are some of the key methods that I (and other successful customer service reps) have honed and used to create lasting relationships with clients. In this post, you'll learn about:

How to establish rapport with clients at the start of the relationship

1. Leverage the history this client already has with sales.

Effective communication is important for the first time you talk to a customer. Keep in mind you aren't the only person in your company that has talked to.This client already has a relationship with the sales team. They've probably already shared their goals, their details, their situation and their company.So, don't make them repeat themselves.Instead, everything that the sales team has discussed with clients should be documented in your CRM, where you (and other teams) can go back and check on notes about this client:

Part of the reason we love Copper is because you can search for the right people and scroll through the Activity tab to see what other conversations have been logged with this person. You can even add a comment and tag a teammate if you need more information.

From there, everyone will have a better understanding and a more cohesive picture of how this client came into their current situation, what problems they're hoping to solve, and why they came to you.

If you have a clear understanding of these points from the get-go, the client's transition to working with you will be much smoother. This relationship will then become a continuation of the trust they built when working with the sales team.

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Know thy customer 🔍

Learn how to collect and use information about your customers to build stronger relationships with this handbook.

2. Understand their big picture, and become a part of it.

You've prepared in advance by checking out past notes and communication on this client. Now, show them you know their situation by referring to some of those important details.

For example, start by quickly recapping what you understand about their company goals, biggest pain points, and their current situation.

By summarizing these key points, you establish empathy in that you know their business and where they're coming from, which puts you in the perfect position to help them move forward.

Then, it's time to let them talk and for you to start listening.

Get them to open up and fill in the rest of the details by asking them open-ended questions, such as:

  • "Where do you see your company in five years?"
  • "What's the biggest obstacle you're facing right now?"
  • "How have you tried to work around that?"
  • "Do you feel like your boss understands the challenges your team is facing right now?"
  • "How will using our product affect your goals?"

Work to broaden your knowledge of the client, their goals for the future, and how you can help them reach those goals.

4. Always keep your word.

This is essential at the beginning of any strong relationship, as it helps you establish mutual trust.

So, keep your word in both big and small things. If you set a time for a meeting or a phone call, don't change it at the last second. Show up on time. Deliver the information and solutions that you promised.

If you find that you're constantly rescheduling phone calls or you just can't seem to make your meetings on time, it may be time to revise your work schedule. Keep a Google Calendar that clearly shows when you are available and when you're not, and set reminders so you're never late.

You can also use your CRM to send links that allow clients to choose an available time on your calendar (which means less back-and-forth emailing for you).

In Copper, for example, this automatically creates an event in your Google Calendar , meaning you'll never forget an appointment:

5. Establish your expertise.

Your clients should feel like they're working with someone who knows the subject matter inside out.

For example, if your focus now is to help them learn the product, you should have some sort of framework that you use to guide them through the process of educating them and making them experts on your product. You could have a logical order to help them learn the different features of your product, specific resources you'll use, and a clear end goal.

Remember, your job is to come in as an advisor with a unique perspective. Although you'll never be an expert in all of your customers' different industries, you can become an expert in how those different customers can benefit from your product.

To be a true expert, it's essential for you to know your product inside and out. If you feel you're lacking in practical knowledge, take the product out for a spin yourself. Read through the knowledge base articles your company provides, and have meaningful conversations with real users on how they are using your product to accomplish their goals.

This will help you provide practical and insightful advice to customers that come to you for help.

6. Either have a plan prepared, or build one together.

Sometimes if you're lucky, you'll already have a clear plan set out in advance to onboard a new client.

Other times, the process may be a bit more complicated.

In these cases, make a plan together with the client. This should be done with a well organized call that sets clear, tangible goals for the steps forward.

At the end of the initial conversation, schedule a follow up to monitor the process and reach goals on time. Getting off to a good start is essential in developing rapport with a current or new customer.

How to build rapport with clients once you’ve gotten to know each other

7. Don’t start a call talking about the weather.

With a client you already know, there may come a point where you feel that you're just not sure how to start a conversation, either in person or on the phone.

Instead of casual conversation like small talk, have something interesting to talk about as soon as they say, "Hello." Before your phone call, for example, spend a few minutes researching your client's industry. Or, find some interesting information about a hobby they mentioned last time.

You might even find that you're going through a similar situation at work. Maybe they're dealing with burnout , or trying to find ways to take advantage of their commute time. Why not show genuine interest by sharinge pointers or articles you've been reading on similar subjects?

This promotes a candid, open atmosphere, and helps build a real relationship with your client.

8. Proactively send them useful content.

You don't have to wait until your planned phone call or meeting to share something interesting with your client.

Instead, keep tabs on what's going on in their world, and be ready to send them interesting news articles, podcasts, or other content that's relatable to them.

Then, shoot them an email that looks something like this:

For example, try setting up Google Alerts that send you information on that client's industry every week:

These automated alerts can help you find relevant information that your client is interested in-that isn't directly related to making a sale. When you can talk about subjects beyond just the product you're selling, this will help build the personal relationship you have with your point of contact.

That way, the next time you're on a call, you can talk as friends rather than just an account manager.

9. Keep all of your notes in your CRM.

Unfortunately, our memory is imperfect. So, we need to keep all of our client information categorized and stored in a CRM.

For example, we use Copper to sync documents from Google Workspace and log notes for meetings and phone calls. That way, we never forget any essential piece of information:

Notes like these can help you to remember questions that were raised, or tasks that you need to complete. By reviewing these detailed notes, you'll provide timely solutions to your customers and remember points to discuss in your next conversation.

10. Show loyalty to your point of contact.

If you expect loyalty from your clients, you'll need to show them loyalty too. How?

One way is simply to work through the best solutions for the customer and help them get the most out of your product or service. Fair warning: this is simple, but not always easy to do.

In any case, it's important to find ways to go above and beyond. For example, let's say your point of contact discovered an integration with your product that saves their team a lot of time in an important business process. If you're in a meeting with their boss, give credit to your point of contact for that accomplishment. They'll remember that kind of loyalty, and they may stick up for you and your product in the future.

11. Be candid.

Honesty is always the best policy when building trust. If you're not sure how to solve a certain problem, be clear about it. Tell them that you're going to search for an answer, but don't make something up on the spot.

Being honest about your limitations (and the limitations of your product) will help establish trust in your clients and build rapport.

How to keep building rapport with a long-time client

12. Become an extension of their team.

You are the go-to contact for this client. You are the one they come to when they have issues with your product, and you are the one who always works through a solution for them.

This is the ultimate goal in customer service: to be viewed as part of the client's team.

So, never let a customer go dark on you. Just because they're quietly using your product without asking questions, it doesn't mean your job with them is done.

Stay in contact, ask how things are going, and prove to them over time that you're on their side. Provide them with the solutions that they're looking for, or give them helpful advice that they didn't even know they needed.

This helps build a deeper kind of loyalty that will last longer into the future.

13. Be sincerely interested in their business.

Go beyond what they sell or what they do. Stay up to date on their activities, and ask them questions about how they go through certain processes.

Also, make sure you know what's going on with their business (Google Alerts can also be helpful here). Connect with them on LinkedIn, and follow their business page. That way, you can send timely congratulations for a promotion, or compliment a recent article on their blog.

14. Get to know them on a personal level.

Building a relationship with your point of contact includes getting to know who they are as a person.

Of course, you don't want to be creepy about this. The best way to get people to open up about their personal life is to give them some details about yours. For example, mention your kid's soccer game on Saturday, and then ask them if they have any kids.

You may not always know their birthday, but if you know about the big life events that are happening, you'll be able to develop that relationship even further. For example, if they're traveling, give them some quick tips. Look for opportunities to be thoughtful.

Eventually, they'll reciprocate this kind of interaction, which leads to an even stronger rapport with clients over time.

Building rapport with clients is an ongoing process. 

Really, you'll never stop establishing rapport with your clients. As soon as you stop, that relationship will begin to die.

Even though trust levels are lower than ever, you can still build rapport with clients by following the tactics we've discussed here.

True, this will require effort on your part.

But at the end of the day you'll have clients that are more loyal to you, and that will stick with your company for the long haul.

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