How exceptional retail workers build rapport

Rapport-building is a fundamental skills for creating positive workplace relationships. Whether you want to build rapport yourself, or teach others how to do it, this positive psychology case study is a useful source of inspiration.

In 2008 researchers from Bowling Green State University showed that specific behaviours can improve the relationship between sales staff and potential customers. They found that retailers who use the following behaviours are more likely to trigger positive customer relationships and make a sale.

  • Making an exceptional effort to meet a customer’s specific needs, even when the customer’s request is simple
  • Building a personal connection – so that customers know they’re not just a number in a database
  • Intense personal interest, showing the customer that they are being listened to and that the company cares about them
  • Finding similarities, so the retailer and customer begin bonding over shared interests
  • Showing “unexpected honesty” so that customers knows they can trust the retailer and the shop’s environment


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The researchers also found that the more similarities which exist between the retailer and customer, the more rapport increases. This won’t be a surprise to anyone who has learned the basics of mirroring and matching to build rapport. However, it’s nice to see an evidence-based study confirming what communication skills trainers have been teaching for quite some time.

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About the author of this article:

Eleanor Shakiba is a positive psychology trainer. She teaches smart professionals to build positive thinking, communication and leadership habits. Eleanor is the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D practitioners. She is an expert in experiential training and delivers dynamic and engaging training for corporate clients.