The importance of building rapport

We spent last weekend in Liverpool, celebrating my husband’s birthday and seeing our son who is at university up there. We love the city and we love its people. Always so friendly and helpful.

We stayed in an hotel in the centre, not far from the Cavern Club, and it really brought to mind what good customer service really is.

The hotel itself was pleasant; nice rooms, well-decorated, spotlessly clean. On arrival, the door was opened by a young lady dressed in jeans and a t-shirt (I actually thought she was a member of the public coming to open it for us). On entering, it was a bit of a surprise that there was no reception desk – very strange not to have a welcoming focal point to aim for. She checked us in on an iPad, sorted our key out and explained it would give us access to the hotel, lift and our room. She indicated the bar area, explained that free tea and coffee was also available and pointed us in the direction of the lifts. Polite and pleasant.

Later on, having been out, we stopped off in the bar area for a cuppa before going back up to our room. The same lady was serving behind the bar and sorting out tea and coffee supplies. I commented that she was multi-talented. She smiled. On returning to our room, she hopped in the lift with us. I told her that I was very excited to be in the hotel as my great-, great-, great-grandfather used to have a shop in that very building, manufacturing and selling musical instruments. Staying in that actual building obviously meant a lot to me. She smiled, said “Lovely” (or something similar) and got out of the lift. I was left feeling deflated and very disappointed.

We were in and out of the hotel over the course of the four days we were there. At no time did any of the staff (all dressed in jeans and t-shirts, which admittedly grated on me) whom we saw get into a friendly conversation with us, check if everything was ok, ask what we had been up to in the day, etc. It was very much customer service, not customer relations, and it made me feel  almost neglected.

It was such a contrast to the three Liverpool hotels we have stayed at previously (shout out to Premier Inn City Centre, Holiday Inn City Centre and Crowne Plaza Speke), where we were always made to feel incredibly welcome, important and valued, and were treated to the famous friendly Liverpudlian hospitality at all times by all the staff with whom we dealt.

One morning, we called in to 200ᵒ Coffee, a coffee shop around the corner, and were warmly greeted by Helen, the Manager. Wow! Talk about first class customer service! She was friendly and chatty and immediately asked us where we were from, asked about our visit, where we had been, etc. When she brought our drinks over, she continued the conversation and even texted her friend for us to check on whether there were still tours going up Radio City Tower. Bright, bubbly personality, she was so welcoming and sociable, we left feeling very well looked after. So impressed, we returned the following day (although sadly she wasn’t in)!

Why mention all this? Because it just goes to show the importance of building rapport with your customers. As my husband said, our hotel staff gave reasonable service. They did what they had to do, no more, no less. But it wasn’t good customer relations. Do I want to return to that hotel? No (despite the family connection). Will I write a good review? No. Not a bad one, but not a shining one (as I wrote for 200ᵒ). How do I feel? Disappointed.

As a customer service trainer (amongst other things), it reinforces what I always tell delegates about the importance of building rapport, of being friendly and showing interest in your customers. It is not only about providing good customer service but also building good customer relations, no matter how brief your contact time is with them. And it doesn’t cost you anything to give it – but it may cost your company in terms of return!

Thank you Liverpool for another great weekend!