Customer Service

How to Build Rapport with Your Online Customers

Customers are customers only when they buy. All the rest of the time they are people.

In our many efforts to keep afloat and sell products, we often find ourselves scrambling to make “the sale.”

Whether that’s through better product design, better user experience or ease of use and leveraging of customer information/profiles, we all are out for the same thing.

But how does that reflect in your engagement with the people who buy your product?

Too often we forget what it’s like to be treated as more than a potential sale. Just last week I was on a site and put a few items in my cart. After being hounded by a customer service rep with multiple “can I help you?” requests that involved several “you haven’t completed your sale yet.” I clicked out, and found my way to another site with less interest in my sale completion, and more interest in me.

They suggested other products and even showed me a product that was on sale similar to one in my cart. I felt like a person again and gave them the sale as a result. In this competitive market, can you afford not to engage with your customers this way? Can you afford to forget how important the person is? Absolutely not. 

Gartner estimates that customer engagement initiatives are underway at over 15% of Global 1000 organizations, run by leaders such as the chief innovation officer, CEO, CIO, head of digital marketing, or chief customer officer.

Recently “Wayne Byrge Sr, was awarded with as the top-volume sales consultant for the 2013 Council of Sales Leadership program of American Honda Motor Co. Inc. by Honda of America for providing world-class customer service to Honda owners.” This is an award that has only been given to 33 out of more than 14,000 sales consultants worldwide. It is this dedication to the customer that deserves recognition.

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How do you respond to their needs, even if they don’t know what those needs are yet? And how do you treat your customer as more than a sale? We’ve compiled a few ways to engage your customers and treat them as people, not just to increase sales, but to increase their trust and confidence in you and your trust and confidence in your product.

1. Watch your tone- Even in virtual interactions. In virtual communities you cannot afford to come across harshly, or abrasively. Remember, you may think you’re coming across well and may have no intention of being rude to your customer but all we have is your words on a page, and virtual interactions so make sure your content is edited for voice and tone. Have a few people who aren’t your employees take a look at it. Have potential customers give their feedback to you. This is something so often overlooked that it can be easy to forget. Read everything and make sure you eliminate severe or abrasive language and content by putting yourself in your readers’ shoes. 

2. Don’t surprise them. Keep your customers in the loop. If you’re making changes to your business plan or your company’s branding/image/logo or other major site overhauls, you need to let your customers know, but more importantly you need to let them know why. They will feel valued and respected by being informed about major changes. If they feel respected and included they will also feel a sense of pride in working with you and your company.

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The other side of the coin, is that if customers are not prepared for changes made to their familiar online tasks, they will become confused, frustrated and call your help line- costing you lots in simple how-to questions. If you are planning to roll-out a major change, consider using an online guidance software, such as WalkMe, to aquaint your users with the new enviorment and ensure that self-service is effortless.  

3. Value your Customer Success/Support employees. This is one of the most overlooked customer engagement strategies of all. But companies who value their employees and who create engaged and positive team members are going to record significantly higher customer service levels. You cannot treat others with respect and kindness if your employer is treating you badly or micromanaging your every move. I once had a employer who timed our bathroom breaks. I can tell you that the first call after those breaks never went at all well. Those poor customers. They had no idea I was being so negatively affected by my work environment but did it cause lost sales? I bet it did. We often focus so much on the customer that we forget how important it is to build up the team that supports them. Bring in incentives for positive customer interaction as often as you do sales. If your morale is down, your sales will be too. So engage with your employees and address their concerns. 

“Gartner Analysts stress the need for engagement across platforms: “From 2013 forward, support of the customer will be greatly expanding to multiple devices, modes and channels, including customer forums, social media channels (such as Twitter and Facebook) and in-line during a self-serviceinteraction via a smartphone or tablet.”

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The good news about online customer service and about building strong customer relationships is that you have a wealth of information and best practices at your fingertips. Look at your competitors. What are they doing to engage with customers? You can do better. Build genuine and interested CS teams who understand the holistic needs of your customers, and your customers will respond.


Amy Clark is the Customer Success Manager at WalkMe. She is also the Lead Author & Editor of IWantItNow Blog. Amy established IWantItNow blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to customer service, support and engagement. You can follow her @Iwantitnowblog. She wrote this post for

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