Mark Bowser

Why We Must Connect with the Customer

A number of years ago, research was done to discover why customers will stop doing business with an organization. The statistics were quite interesting. This is what was discovered.

Statistics on why customers leave or want to!

1% die

3% move away

4% are fickle and float

5% listen to their friends advice

9% can buy product/service cheaper or somewhere else

10% are complainers and whiners

68% leave because they feel we do not care about their needs

Rapport The Answer to Connection

The answer to this dilemma is rapport. We have to connect with the customer if we want a chance of making them loyal. Have you ever wished you knew how to get along better with people? Have you ever wanted to connect with a perfect stranger? But how can we connect better? How do we build rapport with people?

In the 1930s, Dale Carnegie wrote a terrific book titled How To Win Friends and Influence People. In his book, he has a section filled with six steps to get people to like us. That is what rapport really is. When we like someone and they like us then we have rapport and trust with each other. In this chapter, let us use Dale Carnegie’s six steps as a guideline to rapport. A guideline to connection with not only our customers but everyone in our lives from the perfect stranger to our best friend.

STEP ONE: Sincerely interested in other people.

Have you ever been talking to someone and knew that in their mind they were 2000 miles away? How did that make you feel? Like you were being taken for granted? Well, we want to make sure we don’t make other people feel that way. We need to be sincerely interested in other people. This is not easy. Research shows that many people are focused primarily on their own needs, desires, and wants. I know I have to fight that temptation. As champions, we must go against this grain. We must put our needs (at least temporarily) aside and become sincerely interested in other people. If we can do this then we will start building better rapport with other people.

STEP TWO: Simply smile.

Are you a dog lover? If you are, you will probably understand this. When you get home at night what does your dog do? He/she probably greets you at the door with their tale wagging and their tongue sticking out. In its mind, the dog is thinking, “Where have you been? I am so glad you are home. Do you want to play some ball? I do! Do you? Oh, I love you, I love you, I love you. Please never leave me again!” To build rapport, we need to be more like a puppy dog. Now, dont slobber on people but we do need to greet people properly. We need to smile people into our lives.

A smile softens, its opens the door to the heart. When that door is open, connection has been made. We need to commit our lives to giving away as many smiles each day as possible. Give it a try. I believe you will discover that you have more connection with people and even feel better yourself. Not only will you feel good because you have brightened someone’s day but it will also brighten your day physically. The muscles that form a smile actually release a chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. Isn’t that great!

Some of you might be thinking, “That’s great Mark, but I spend most of my day on the telephone. Does a smile help me build rapport?” The answer is a resounding “YES!” There are telemarketing companies that put a mirror on the desk of the people who are on the phone all day. Why do they do that? Because if the employee is looking at a sour puss all day long (him/herself) then they will probably start to smile. When they smile, it brightens their tone and they build rapport with the customer on the other end of the phone line. A smile or a frown can be heard by the customer no matter how many miles of phone line is in between them and you.

STEP THREE: The honor of ones name.

Dale Carnegie said that the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of our own name. Get into the habit of using people’s name in conversation with them. Don’t use it every other sentence because that will annoy them but two or three times in a conversation will connect with them. Also, don’t forget to use their name in the middle of letters, memos, or emails. For example, your note might look as follows.

Dear Bob,

Fantastic job on the xyz project. So and so was sold by your presentation. (At this point, the note continues)…

Bob, …(Here you are using Bob’s name again before making your statement.)

STEP FOUR: The power of the listening ear.

Dale Carnegie shared the story of a department store in Chicago, Illinois which almost lost a valued customer. Mrs. Douglas spent thousands of dollars every year in this one particular department store. On this one day, she walked into the store and bought a coat that was on sale. When she got home, she realized the coat had a rip in the lining. That obviously upset her. She went back to the store and showed the ripped lining to a sales clerk. The clerk pointed to a sign and gruffly said, “All sales are final! If you don’t like it then you can sew it up yourself.”

“But it is damaged,” said Mrs. Douglas.

“Doesn’t matter! Sold means sold!”

Mrs. Douglas was about to leave the store and probably not return when she ran across the department store manager. The manager knew her very well because of her loyal years of shopping there. The manager did something that honored her. He just listened. He let her share everything that was on her chest. He let her share the anger that was bubbling up inside her and her disappointment in the product. Once Mrs. Douglas had said everything she wanted to say, the manager spoke. He said, “Mrs. Douglas, it is true that on sale items the sales are final so we can clear our merchandise at the end of a season. But that policy has nothing to do with damaged merchandise. By all means we will replace the item for you, fix it, or give you your money back. Whichever you prefer.”

Couldn’t have the store manager said this at the very beginning of their conversation? Sure, but that would have solved only part of the problem. You see, Mrs. Douglas needed to feel understood and the best way to help someone feel understood is too simply listen to him or her. Many times people just need to be heard.

STEP FIVE: Talk in terms of their interests.

In step number one, we learned we need to be genuinely interested in other people. In this step we need to talk in terms of their interest. For example, do you have a co-worker who just got back from vacation? If so, ask them about it. Do you have a friend who loves to go sailing? If so, ask them if they have been able to get out on the boat lately with the kids. You see, these are things they love to do. These are things they also love to talk about. When we are willing to talk in terms of another person’s interest, it fuels their enthusiasm for life. That enthusiasm will bubble over into the conversation in which you want to talk with them.

STEP SIX: Make them feel important and do it sincerely.

Have you ever been invited to a party and as soon as you walked in the door, the host said, “Wow! You look great. I have never seen anybody look so awesome.” For about a minute, you feel very special until you hear them saying the same thing to the next person who walks in the door. That’s called false flattery and that will destroy your rapport.

So, how do we make someone feel important and do it sincerely? Let me give you an example. When I was in college, I was in Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps). We had to give a speech in our military history course. For many people, public speaking is a fear worse than death. But believe me, it can be very intimidating to have to give a speech in front of a full fledge colonel who is your commanding officer. I would have been thrilled if Colonel Biltz would have pulled me aside when I was done and said, “You did a great job Cadet Bowser.” But he didn’t do that. He actually did something even more honoring for me. He set me up as an example for the rest of the cadets in the class. Colonel Biltz said something like this, “This is what Cadet Bowser did well and what we can learn from it.” He used me as an example on how to be prepared and give a fine presentation. That definitely made me feel important.

What Colonel Biltz did was give me a sincere compliment. Colonel Biltz (and most colonels for that matter) arent the kind of people who are going to give you false flattery. They will give you a compliment when you deserve it and encouragement when you need it. We can follow Colonel Biltz’s example and make people feel important. Who can you give a lift to today? Catch them doing something right and praise them for it.

Well, there you have it my friend. Six steps to transform your relationships. If we really want to connect with people all we have to do is:

1. Be sincerely interested in other people

2. Simply smile

3. Remember to honor a persons name

4. Be a listener

5. Talk in terms of their interests

6. Make them feel important and do it


Now, it is up to you and me. Lets go out there and make it happen!