Kate Winslet surprised teenagers in Reading the other day by dropping in to her old drama club, Starmaker, where life as an Oscar-winning actress began for her. She immediately created connection with her audience by saying they could ask her anything as she was “very normal”; she then proceeded to answer questions, speaking to children individually by name and showing she was really interested in them. She created instant rapport with the people in the room.

 

 



It’s an important lesson for us all, especially online businesses. You don’t have much time to create a positive connection with people – fractions of a second nowadays. You need to have the Kate Winslet effect – instant rapport. Otherwise your customers or potential customers just disappear, to float off to the next potentially interesting web page.

Rapport is defined as a mutual feeling of trust, understanding, agreement and co-operation. In other words you like your customers and they like you too. It is not false – the kind of salesperson’s “how are you today”, patter. For instance, the company that phoned me earlier on asked me for my name (strange as they had called me…!). When I said “Graham Jones” their response was “Ah, that’s lovely”. Er….no, it’s my name which they already knew. What’s “lovely” is the grin on my son’s face, or the cover photo on a Madonna album, but I don’t really think you can say my name is “lovely”. True, I like it – after all it’s the only one I’ve got, but the salesperson’s training to try and create a relationship with me by saying my name is lovely smacks of a poor training course gone wrong. No rapport now between me and that hapless caller.

Online rapport, too, does not arrive by simple “techniques”. Instead it comes through mutual understanding, of truly knowing your web site visitors and connecting with them at a human level. Far too many web sites only connect at a technical level – making sure their online software works, or that we can easily click on the right buttons to get through the shopping cart. All too often, people confuse usability with rapport.

Being usable is an essential part of building online rapport. But in the grand scheme of things you are only going to truly connect with your visitors and customers if you see everything from their perspective. Just like Kate Winslet, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the people on the “other side”. And for Kate Winslet that was easy – she too had been a student at that drama club and knew exactly how those kids felt.

Which raises the question. How often have you been a customer of your own company? How often have you tried to call or connect with your own organisation? How often have you been a mystery shopper for your own products? Unless, like Kate Winslet, you experience things from the “other side” you will never be able to build instant rapport with your customers.

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