4 Ways to Get Customers to Instantly Like You

The key to keeping customers coming back begins with a smile.
As a small business owner, making sure your customers like you is pivotal for success. (Photo: mavo/Shutterstock)

Your small business depends on retaining customers, which means that when your customers like you, it pays off in a big way.

“People buy goods and services from people they like and are less likely to make purchases goods from people they do not like,” said Dr. Jack Schafer, a clinical psychologist and professor at Western Illinois University, and author of “The Life Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting and Winning People Over.”

Whether your small business is a retail store or a coffee shop, “establishing rapport during the first few seconds of a sales encounter is critical,” said Schafer.

Here are four tips to make sure your customers keep coming back for more:


Sometimes the simplest gesture, like a genuine smile, can have the biggest impact.

“A smile signals enthusiasm, happiness, confidence and, most importantly, says ‘I like you,’” said Schafer. “When people smile, the brain releases endorphins, which make you feel good about yourself. It is very difficult not to return a genuine smile.”

But what if you can’t force a real smile?

According to Schafer, it’s important to ensure that your smile – genuine or not – creates crow’s feet around your eyes.

“The wrinkling of the crow’s feet signals a sincere smile,” he said. When the customer returns your smile, endorphins will be released, and they will attribute that momentary good feeling to you, which will more than likely make them a repeat customer.

Establish empathy

Empathy is essential in building and maintaining close relationships, which includes your customers.

“You can establish empathy with your customers by making empathetic statements, which keeps the focus of the conversation on the customer, while subtly eliciting information from the customer that he or she would not normally reveal,” said Schafer.

For example:
Small business owner: May I help you?
Customer: I’m just looking. (Yawning)
Small business owner: Looks like you had an exhausting day. (Empathetic statement)
Customer: Yeah, you wouldn’t believe the day I had. Everybody decided to come in today and buy a car.
Small business owner: So, you’re usually not that busy on normal days. (Empathetic statement)

Schafer recommended that small business owners “avoid statements such as ‘I know how you feel’ because the pronoun ‘I’ shifts the focus of the conversation from the customer to the small business owner.”

Not only are empathetic statements the foundation for effective communication, but they also suggest that you care about the customer and not just the sale, which leaves them feeling more valued.

Use flattery

Flattery will get you everywhere, but Schafer warned, “Direct flattery often causes people to increase their defenses.”

To avoid this, Schafer recommended putting people in the position where they flatter themselves.

“People rarely miss an opportunity to flatter themselves. In turn, they feel good about themselves, which increases rapport.”

Schafer suggested using an empathetic statement such as, “Your school has reached the point where you want to seek accreditation,” which allows the speaker to flatter herself.

“You indirectly told the person that not only her school is successful but that she, as a person, is responsible for the success.”

When you use sophisticated forms of flattery, rather than outright manipulation, you’re more likely to gain a customer’s trust.

Find common ground

Finding common ground with a customer quickly establishes rapport. Though you can’t expect to be friends with all of your customers, you should be able to relate to them through their experiences and find common ground.

“Common ground can be established using three methods: contemporaneous, temporal or vicarious,” said Schafer. “Contemporaneous common ground occurs when two people share the same things in the present.”

For example, “I am in the military and you are in the military.” While, temporal common ground occurs when two people shared the same experience over time (“You are in the military now and I was in the military 10 years ago.”) Vicarious common ground occurs when a common experience is shared through a third person (“You are in the military, my brother is in the military”). Finding common ground is helpful because most people prefer to do business with people like themselves, or where they feel understood.

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