Building Rapport – Admit That We’re Human

This concept comes up every election season, whether people even realize it or not, so I figured this post can have some external applications, too. Maybe you can gain some personal insight into the way you feel about one candidate versus another:

When it comes to building relationships with other people, trustworthiness is valued far more than intelligence.

Here’s a study that ranks the importance of different traits across different types of interpersonal relationships. The language is pretty dry, but the figures themselves are revealing enough. As the numbers indicate, intelligence is rated more or less important depending on the type of interaction, but across the board, trustworthiness is deemed the most important trait of all, with cooperativeness following as a close second.

Translated into live chat and customer support in general, this means that it’s okay to admit if you — or we, in general — don’t know something or even make a mistake. In fact, the element of humility allows the user to trust us even more and can help build rapport in the long run. People tend to be pretty good at sniffing out false confidence, and ultimately, the ability to admit that we’re human means that users will put more faith in our answers when we are confident with them.

Because ultimately, if they don’t trust us, then it doesn’t matter how firm or confident we are in our answers. They still won’t believe us. That’s why humility is a helpful trait.

For this reason, don’t worry if you have to make statements like these during live chat:

I’m not really sure, but let me look that up for you. One moment, please.

Yikes, I’m so sorry. I totally misunderstood what you were looking to do. This is what you’ll actually need to do: _____

I apologize about this. I believe there may have been a miscommunication between you and the last Happiness Engineer. Let me clarify: _____

Ironically, any of these statements, if conveyed with sincerity and followed up with the correct answer, can make you — and all of us as a group — more trustworthy in the eyes of our users.

Having said that, there are a couple of caveats when it comes to this concept:

  • There’s a fine line between conveying humility and communicating outright incompetence. If your answer to every user’s question is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ then of course, the user isn’t going to trust you on anything. Basically, admit when you don’t know or mess up, but hopefully, that’s a pretty rare occurrence.
  • As with other rapport-building concepts I’ve mentioned, not all users really care about us building a relationship with them. Some just want their questions answered. These users are usually easy to pick out, as they’re the ones who are curt and blunt, their comments are often phrased in the form of requests rather than questions, and they generally exude no amount of friendliness. With these users, yeah, admit if you royally screw up, but otherwise, it may be best just to focus on solving their problems.
  • And finally, it’s helpful to admit when we mess up, but also try to do it without throwing another HE under the bus. 🙂 The third statement above is an example of how you can admit a mistake without necessarily blaming it all on someone else.

tl;dr: Don’t be afraid to admit if you don’t know something or make a mistake.

#building-rapport #trustworthiness #tips-language