How I Use Rapport to Humanize Customer Success

Jim Gonzales
Customer Success Manager

Interview Highlights:

  • See your customers for who they are, not as a business transaction
  • Stay true to yourself and do what you’re comfortable doing
  • Sometimes all you need is a shift in perspective

Can you briefly introduce yourself and what you do?

I’m Jim, a first-generation Filipino immigrant, and I work in Evisort as a Customer Success Manager. 

I actually didn’t know what Customer Success was until I moved to San Francisco and got into tech. I originally wanted to be an nurse. That didn’t work out, but fortunately I still managed to find a career I love. CS shares many of the same essential skills, like being able to take care of people, being a great listener, and being a great communicator. 

In my role as a CSM, I get the opportunity to talk to people on a daily basis, like my customers or working internally with product engineering. So I feel like I’m the bridge between customers and the rest of our company. 

What kind of role do you think rapport plays in practicing Customer Success?

If you look at any job description, one of the requirements is being able to build rapport. It’s almost become a buzzword. Like, what does “building rapport” even mean? I certainly didn’t know what it meant until I got into tech. 

At the end of the day, rapport is really just building a relationship. And as a CSM, it makes my day a lot easier, more exciting, and more fun when I get a chance to just talk to customers normally and see them for who they are, as opposed to just treating them like a business transaction. 

One of the most important parts of CS is being able to understand what the customer wants. How do they find our product? Do they find our features or service helpful to them? What value are they getting? All that is part of being able to build rapport. 

Rapport just makes the whole exchange more delightful. It’s easier to talk to customers when you’re trying to build a relationship and not just asking them discovery questions. 

How would you describe your approach to building rapport with a customer?

I start doing research well ahead of time. Usually customers will have a LinkedIn page, and that tells me where they live, where they’ve worked in the past, and in what role. We may have mutual connections or interests. 

I do this so that when the customer and I meet for the first time, I have a firmer base that I can use to start connecting. I also have the context from the sales person, like why did they purchase our product, and what particular features interested them.

Get the Catalyst newsletter

In each issue, we promise to deliver you carefully curated articles on all things customer success.

Do you use humor to help build rapport?

I have a certain type of humor. It’s not always funny to everyone, but if I come in with the positive mindset of “I’m going to be jolly and smile to everyone,” it makes the conversation with customers a lot smoother, and the customer will actually want to work with you more as a CSM. 

I’m the face of the company, and how I present myself directly translates to how the company will be seen. Humor is a part of that. 

Also, everyone is virtual now. We don’t have physical interactions anymore because CSMs aren’t traveling anywhere. So having some sense of humor in your conversations is huge, because it makes the customer feel more at ease. It makes the day a little bit better. You don’t even need to actually make a joke to lift the mood. I find that even just smiling during my video conversations is very contagious. 

Something that CSMs always have to keep in mind is that we’re just a small sliver of the pie. They may be interacting with other vendors. They may have lots of other responsibilities. So we just have to be cognizant of that. 

What are the potential downsides to using humor in building rapport?

Sometimes people are just very focused on their day-to-day stuff that they just want your call to be a very quick business interaction. In those cases, if you say something and they didn’t really appreciate it, you should just accept it and move on.

I also feel that CSMs should be true to themselves. If that means you love to crack jokes, you should continue doing that. But if you don’t, there’s no need to force yourself. If you do, it will come out flat and things are now worse. 

You should also be careful to never make the customer the butt of a joke. It’s okay to make fun of yourself, but never make fun of the customer, because things can go really wrong really fast. You don’t know who that person is and you don’t know how they’ll react.

How can a CSM train themselves to take a more human approach to their job?

This is something I continue to work on. It’s a shift in perspective. 

I read this book called Atomic Habits by James Clear, and he mentioned something very powerful. He says that your day is going to be very miserable if you say “I have to do this,” and “I have to go for a run,” or “I have to talk to customers.” Your day will be dreaded and miserable if you think that way. 

But if you think of it like, “I get to do this,” and “I get to go for a run,” or “I get to talk to customers,” then you will be more positive. You get to talk to people every day. You get to meet people that you normally wouldn’t be able to interact with if you weren’t a CSM. 

Another way is to stay curious. Ask questions. Don’t just read them off a list; be spontaneous and ask questions based on your observations. Maybe you can comment on their zoom background, or where they’re from. Small steps to help understand who the person really is. 

About 
Evisort

Evisort is on a mission to change how companies interact with their legal documents. Founded out of Harvard Law and MIT, Evisort has been backed by leading early-stage venture funds. Evisort works by using advanced artificial intelligence models to help companies organize and understand the important business data contained in their legal documents. With Evisort, information locked away in documents becomes searchable, and key terms can be surfaced to the right people at the right time. Evisort can be used across all documents across an organization and helps companies reduce costs and improve their compliance and business operations.

Have a customer success story?

Submit your customer success story in the form below, and get featured on Chatalyst!

Submit Your Story

Submit a Story

Nevermind