How to build rapport in customer service calls

Ashley Sava

June 9, 2020

Every interaction plays a part in a customer’s perception of your organization. Establishing the best possible customer experience means your agents must know how to build rapport with customers during service interactions. Of course, building rapport is often easier said than done, especially when interactions are short or customers are frustrated. But by following a few best practices, agents increase the likelihood of making a positive impression and delivering a low-effort experience.

Here are seven strategies to help your agents build rapport in customer service interactions:

1. Personalize the experience

Building rapport begins with making a genuine connection with your customers. This starts by personalizing the customer experience, which involves recalling and incorporating relevant information from previous interactions. Your agents should have access to your company’s CRM, which allows them to look up information about the customer and their previous interactions during the call. This reduces the risk that the customer will have to repeat information they’ve already shared and allows the agent to tailor their service delivery to the customer.

2. Use mirroring

Psychology tells us that people are more likely to trust and like people who are similar to themselves. Mirroring techniques can help you establish rapport by matching your customer's tone, mood, and pace. Is your customer cracking jokes? Maintain the mood by providing light responses. Is your customer clearly in a hurry? Pick up the conversation’s pace. Are they rolling with tech lingo? Try and reflect that language right back. 

As a contact center manager, you can have your agents practice mirroring techniques in role-playing sessions and coaching one-on-ones. Building in time to practice will help make these techniques second-nature for your agents.

3. Learn your customer’s true needs

To build rapport, it is crucial to understand your customers' true needs. Help your agents get to the bottom of your customers’ needs by training them to ask probing questions. Examples of probing questions in customer service might include:

  • Has this issue happened before?
  • Could you give me an example of what you mean by x?
  • What happened after you did x?

The exact questions will depend on the customer’s situation, but you can help agents prepare and think critically about the right questions to ask through role-playing. Real-time conversation analytics software can also help by giving agents prompts and recommendations based on what is happening in an ongoing conversation.

The better you understand the customer, the better your customer’s experience and contact center’s first call resolution will be. 

4. Keep interactions respectful

Respect is a cornerstone of building rapport in customer service. Coach your agents to always address customers by their preferred name and maintain proper etiquette throughout the conversation. No matter how challenging the situation becomes, it’s never appropriate for an agent to lose patience or respond disrespectfully. A single negative interaction can tarnish the entire customer experience and lead to churn or negative word-of-mouth. Interacting with professionalism and courtesy not only builds rapport but also reinforces your organization's commitment to customer satisfaction.

5. Don’t be a robot

Customers appreciate authenticity in customer service interactions. Even if your agents are required to follow a script, they can infuse their tone, pitch, and inflection with their natural personality. Injecting a touch of humor or showing empathy can help create a more engaging and genuine conversation. By displaying genuine interest and enthusiasm in assisting customers, agents build rapport and make them feel valued. Encourage your agents to avoid monotone speech and strive for an upbeat and authentic mannerism that shines through the phone line.

6. Show appreciation

A little gratitude can go a long way in building rapport with customers. Express sincere thanks to patient customers for their understanding and cooperation. When customers agree to participate in surveys or provide feedback, make sure to acknowledge their time and input. Compliment customers who purchase products or services and reassure them that they have made the right choice. By showing appreciation to your customers, you reinforce a positive customer experience and strengthen your relationship with them.

7. Manage expectations

A customer should never have to wonder about timelines, progress and next steps. Your agents should be proactively communicating those details right away. If there are limitations or challenges in meeting a customer's needs or expectations, train your agents to be transparent and honest with them. By managing expectations and providing accurate information, you demonstrate your company’s commitment to openness and integrity.

How to build rapport with customers...

Be persistent! Establishing a strong customer-agent relationship requires consistent effort and determination. By continuously delivering exceptional customer service and demonstrating genuine care for your customers, you can win their trust and build lasting loyalty. Remember that rapport-building is an ongoing process that requires attention and nurturing.

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