05 May 5 ways to build genuine customer intimacy
Customer intimacy is key to gaining customer trust and loyalty.
Do you ever feel uncomfortable in your client/customer conversations? If not, the chances are that you are staying in one or more of your safety zones.
Many conversations start with the personal-personal zone the superficial chats about the weekend, the weather, sport, family and other typical ‘safe’ conversations. There is nothing wrong with these, and if you find the right topic or point of commonality, these types of conversation are great at building rapport, which is of course very useful in seeking to build trust.
The problem is that this type of conversations will only get you so far – they usually stay at the superficial level before drying up – prompting you to press on to the technical zone dealing with business technicalities or specifics.
What’s missed between the superficial personal zone is genuine customer intimacy – an opportunity to build the deeper levels of trust that truly strengthen client relationships.
It is this human emotional connection that is actually the most powerful element in building deep, high-trust, customer relationships. The personal-professional zone is where you seek to develop a deeper trust and understanding about your customers hopes and fears, their anxieties and pressure-points, their stresses and motivations, their personal value priorities.
Customer intimacy isn’t about sharing personal information, but about understanding the human emotional side of the business life. Shifting customer discussions onto the personal professional level helps focus conversations on what really matters – how people feel about their personal goals or career/employment/business and how you might be able to help them.
Shifting conversations onto personal or emotional levels isn’t easy of course. You can’t just dive in and either ask people about their problems at work, or how they feel about different challenges without the appropriate opportunity. You can, however, be alert for the opportunities.
Here are my tips for improving customer intimacy:
Listen for and respond to any emotional language:
If they use any emotional language (‘annoyed’, ‘stressed’, ‘frustrated’ or many many others), empathise and ask further questions so you can truly understand.
Ask if there is anything you can do to help
Ask about their feelings
Where they mention a potentially stressful, frustrating or emotional situation in unemotional terms, ask them how they feel or felt about it.
Ask permission to get personal
If you can sense that they are frustrated about something but feel uncomfortable about asking a more intimate question, ask permission first: “Do you mind if I ask . . . . . . . ?”
Express your own emotions
Sometimes it’s better to go first: get someone to relax into a more intimate zone by lowering your defences first. Talk about your anxieties/worries/hopes about any work / career / business situation. If you do this, there is a great chance thatthey will reciprocate and you will have moved the conversation and relationship onto a more intimate level.
Acknowledge either mistakes or difficult / uncomfortable situations
If the situation is uncomfortable, be honest about it: acknowledge your own embarrassment, nervousness or concerns. This will often lead to feelings of either respect or empathy in the customer.
Use the situation as a way to move forward rather than as a hindrance.
Moving relationships onto the person-professional level often involves taking risks and opening up yourself before you can expect a customer or client to reciprocate. It means that customer conversations can get uncomfortable, but the payoff in terms of genuine trust and deeper customer relationships can be significant. Train your staff to move out of their rapport-building or technical comfort zones.