How to Effectively Build Rapport Over the Phone (Part 1)

By Shauna Geraghty

0 min read

Call center agents who effectively build rapport consistently sell more and receive higher customer satisfaction ratings than their peers who do not. Why? Because people buy from and trust people they connect with. It’s as simple as that.

It is therefore imperative that call center agents be skilled in the art and science of rapport building. This blog post aims to help call center agents do just that. It provides tips, tools and techniques that will help call center agents be rapport building pros in no time.

Rapport building starts from day 1 and never ends

In order to be effective, call center agents must aim to build rapport on first contact and throughout the customer relationship. Just as personal relationships are dynamic, so are business relationships. They must be cultivated over time and the approach to rapport building must evolve along with the growth of the relationship.

Rapport building requires data – accurate data

Have you ever started a conversation with, “What grade is your daughter in these days?” Only to be met with, “I don’t have any kids.” Yikes! Establishing a true connection with someone requires that you remember accurate information about that person. Use call center software that compiles comprehensive customer information so you can take a data-driven approach to interacting with the customer. The key to this is making sure that you continuously update the call center software with customer information, review the customer information before reaching out and listen to the call recordings from previous calls before contacting the prospect again. Doing so will ensure that you are right on target the next time you try to connect with a customer or prospect.

Take a personal interest in your callers

Building rapport requires that you not only remember important information about the contact, but that you truly understand that person. You must have insight into their desires, motivation, cultural background and belief systems. How are you going to find out this information? By taking a genuine interest in getting to know the person beyond a superficial level. When there is downtime on the call, ask them a few light questions and see where the conversation goes. Try to gather actionable intelligence that you can leverage throughout your current and future rapport building efforts. When you make this a priority, rapport building becomes second nature.

Adjust your approach to interacting with callers

Once you have gathered actionable intelligence about the caller, adjust your approach to interacting with them accordingly. Is your caller thirsty for tech info about the product? Give it to them! Are they in a rush to get back to work? Cut the small talk! Do they use tech-savvy language and seem to know a lot about the product? Match their style by also communicating using similar language. Adjusting your style to interacting with callers based on actionable data is an amazing technique to help effectively establish rapport.

Establish an emotional connection with callers

There is no quicker way to establish rapport than by genuinely connecting with the customer on an emotional level. How do you accomplish this? Put yourself in their shoes. Are they looking for a new product because their current solution has too many bugs? Imagine how they would feel, let them know and see if you can connect with them about this. Are they running late because it is taking a long time to activate their new service? Be genuine in your apology and communicate how you might feel if you were in their position. When you go straight for the heart, you just might win over theirs.

Use active listening skills

Active listening is essential for creating a mutual understanding between you and the caller – and for establishing rapport. In fact, nothing throws off rapport building quicker than not being on the same page because you weren’t listening to the caller. Avoid this costly mistake by honing your active listening skills. The following tips will help you do just that:

  • Allow the caller to talk without interruption
  • Attend to the content of what the caller is saying without judging
  • Take quick notes on important issues
  • Ask clarifying questions if necessary
  • Demonstrate interest
  • Summarize the caller’s main points before responding

Following the aforementioned tips will significantly help to enhance your active listening skills and rapport building in the call center.

Communicate with respect

An excellent way to build rapport is to communicate with the caller in a respectful manner. Ask him how he would like to be addressed, say your please and thank you’s, never talk down to the customer and remain patient at all times. Interacting with callers with respect and using proper call center etiquette will go a long way to building rapport.

Don’t sound scripted

We all dread the call center agent who reads directly from a script. Don’t be that person. If you have to stick to a script, don’t give callers any reason to know it. Use inflection, modulation and pitch to make it sound like you are not reading. Try to add a little personality to your interaction by inserting a small joke or asking a question. This will significantly help to improve the rapport building process and reassure callers that you are not just another robotic call center agent.

Lead the caller and remain in control

As call center agents, often callers reach you angry, upset, dissatisfied or in a hurry. In order to build rapport with these difficult callers, you must acknowledge their emotional state by conveying empathy for their situation. You should also match your speech patterns to theirs initially (i.e., if they are speaking with urgency you should as well) and then gradually lead them to where you would like them to be (i.e., gradually slow your speech down). Matching your caller’s speaking style and then guiding them to where you would like them to be will help to not only establish better rapport but expedite problem-solving and build credibility.

Building rapport with callers can sometimes be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be. By following the aforementioned tips, building rapport over the phone will be like second nature.

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Shauna Geraghty

As the first U.S. employee, Shauna helped to scale Talkdesk to over 1,000 employees in 7 offices globally. During her tenure, she has built Talkdesk's Marketing, Talent and HR functions from the ground up. Shauna has a doctorate in clinical psychology and has applied foundational knowledge from the field of psychology to help propel Talkdesk along its hyper-growth trajectory.