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In the world of customer service, a great phone call can make all the difference.

It can turn a frustrated client into a lifelong customer. It can generate endless sales. It can boost loyalty, showcase who you are as a business and what you stand for, and build your reputation beyond belief.

However, what makes a great phone call is not just trying to answer your caller’s questions as quickly as possible and getting them answered so you can move on to the next call.

It’s about taking the time to build a relationship, to build rapport, and connect with your customers as one human to another through mutual understanding.

Gone are the days of people being content buying from or using faceless corporations. These days, businesses are human, and yours is too.

Now, we hear you laughing. How are you supposed to find the time to run your business to sit down and have a nice, heartfelt chat with every customer who calls you?

Well, you can’t, and we know that, but you can make things 100 times better when you focus on building rapport – that special connection that makes people feel heard and valued.

Take a moment to think about it.

Think about the last time you had a frustrating issue with any company.

Did the person on the other end of the line rush to fix the problem, or did they take the time to listen and understand how it affected you? Chances are, if you felt heard and understood, the whole experience was a lot less stressful, even if the problem took a while to fix.

Think of phone-based customer support as more than just problem-solving. It’s about building relationships. Yes, the conversation is about solving issues, but how you make your clients feel matters just as much.

This guide is your roadmap to stronger phone conversations. We’ll cover proven techniques and best practices to help you connect with clients on a deeper level. Ready to transform those business calls?

Let’s get started!

The Why of Rapport: It’s Not Just About Being Nice

Building customer rapport on the phone isn’t just about pleasantries.

For businesses, it’s a superpower that can supercharge your success. Let’s dive into the why behind building rapport and how it makes a huge difference.

Once again, take a moment to think about the best customer service experiences you’ve had over the last few years. For me, I’ve used SaaS products, to-do lists, website development platforms, and the sorts; there are so many experiences I’ve had that have just been more than stellar.

A standout example was Squarespace. I was new to the platform and had no idea what I was doing and the support assistant was so patient and attentive, guiding me through the basics. It was wonderful.

However, on top of this, she realized I was paying for a high-tier package when I didn’t need it. She recommended that I tier down, and she refunded me the difference. This experience will keep me a loyal customer for years to come.

  • Happy Clients = Happy Business: A positive phone experience can turn a stressed-out customer into a raving fan. Rapport helps you deliver that “wow” factor that keeps them returning for more.
  • Build Trust, Build Loyalty: When clients feel like you genuinely ‘get’ them, they’re far more likely to stick around. In the competitive world of business, loyalty is everything.

Smooth Out Misunderstandings and Problem-Solving

When you’re running a company over time, you’ll have some bad experiences every now and then. It’s just inevitable. Either you mess up or make a mistake. The customer opts to work with you but what you’re offering is not really what they’re after and they’re left disappointed. There are a few reasons.

However, don’t let these experiences drag you down. Instead, understand that good customer service allows you to turn these bad experiences into positive ones—ones that leave customers satisfied and coming back or not leaving a bad testimonial on their way out.

  • Crystal-Clear Communication: Rapport is built on open communication (and great listening skills!). This means fewer misunderstandings and a smoother problem-solving process.
  • Tackle Issues Together: When a problem does pop up, a client who trusts you is way more likely to work with you to find a solution instead of against you.

Open Upselling and Cross-Selling Success

Did you know it’s five to 25 times more affordable to keep a returning customer than acquiring a new one?

Therefore, whenever a customer is on the phone, you want them to love the experience you’re offering, so they keep coming back for you and keep your business growing. The best way to do this is to build rapport and satisfy them.

  • Trust: The Magic Word: Once you’ve earned a client’s trust, it’s much easier to show them how another service or product could make their life easier.
  • Personalized Solutions: Knowing your clients’ pain points (or key points) allows you to offer solutions that genuinely help them – a win-win!

Boost Team Morale

Interestingly enough, taking the time to build rapport with customers doesn’t just benefit your customers themselves. It makes your employees and staff happy too.

This is because most people don’t want to act on behalf of a faceless company and pretend to be a robot reading off a script. They like to be real, to be themselves, and to have a bit of fun and personality in their interactions with people day in and day out.

Of course, there are boundaries, but allowing your reps to build rapport can make your employees much more engaged and satisfied in their work. Thus, they’ll produce better results and will want to stay working with you for longer.

  • Meaningful Work: Helping clients is rewarding! When your team feels like they’re making a real connection, their job satisfaction goes through the roof because they feel ownership in your business.
  • Stronger Skillsets: Building rapport is all about communication and showing empathy – skills your team will use in their work and personal lives.

The Bottom Line: In the business world, rapport isn’t a “nice to have.” It’s a must-have for keeping clients happy, solving problems efficiently, growing your business, and building a team that loves their work.

Techniques to Build Rapport Over the Phone

Okay, with the whys in mind, it’s time to move on to the actionable part of this guide and how to build customer rapport.

Don’t worry—it’s not as complicated or technical as you may think. Instead, it simply requires a bit of mindfulness and attention in a few areas of your interactions, and you should see a big difference straight away.

The Power of a “Smiling” Voice

Think of your voice as your first impression on the phone. You wouldn’t answer the door for a guest with a frown, would you? The same goes for phone calls! Even though your clients can’t see your smile, they can absolutely hear it. Here’s why it matters:

  • Sets the Mood: A warm, friendly voice instantly puts the client at ease and sets a positive tone for the whole conversation.
  • Builds Connection: Even a slight smile infuses your words with genuine warmth, making the client feel heard and valued.

Pro-Tip: Before picking up the phone, take a moment, smile, and let that positivity flow into your greeting.

A Winning Phone Greeting:

“Good [morning/afternoon/evening], thank you for calling [Company Name].  My name is [Your Name], how can I help you?”

Why it Works:

  • Positive Greeting: “Good morning” sounds way more welcoming than a standard “Hello.”
  • Personal Touch: Using your name and the company name builds trust right away.
  • Solution-Focused: Asking how you can help shows you’re ready to solve the client’s problem.

This simple shift in your greeting transforms the phone call from a purely transactional experience into a friendly and helpful one.

Break the Ice: The Power of Small Talk

It might feel counterintuitive, but a minute for casual conversation before diving into the issue can make a huge difference in how the whole call goes. Here’s why:

  • Put Them at Ease: A little friendly chit-chat helps relax your client and breaks down that “talking to customer service” barrier.
  • Get Personal: It shows you see them as a person, not just a ticket number. This makes them feel valued and more likely to work with you.

Simple Ways to Start:

Keep it light and open-ended to get the conversation flowing naturally:

  • “How’s your week going so far?”
  • “Staying warm/cool enough out there?”
  • “Any fun plans for the weekend?”

Remember: You’re not trying to be their new best friend; just show that there’s a friendly human on the other end of the line.

Example:

“Before we get into your concern, how’s your day going? I hear it’s been [rainy/sunny/etc.] over in your area.”

This smoothly connects the small talk to the business at hand, making the transition feel natural and keeping the good vibes going.

The Art of Truly Listening (and Reflecting Back)

Most of us think we’re good listeners, but on hectic workdays, it’s easy to fall into “half-listening” mode. But when building rapport, showing you’re genuinely paying attention is a game-changer.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Active Listening: It’s not just hearing the words, it’s about focusing on their meaning. Ask clarifying questions, and give little cues to show you’re engaged (“Right,” “I see,” etc.).
  • Reflective Listening: This is like holding up a verbal mirror. Summarize what the client said in your own words to ensure you’re on the same page.

Why This Matters:

  • Get it Right the First Time: Good listening means fewer misunderstandings and less wasted time reviewing the same information twice.
  • “I Feel Heard!”: When clients feel truly understood, their frustration fades, and they’re more likely to see you as a partner in solving the problem.
  • Build Trust: Listen actively to show genuine attention, which, in turn, builds confidence. They’ll know you’re invested in finding a solution, not just concluding the call.

Example:

“So, you’re saying that [summarize the issue]. That must be incredibly frustrating! Let’s work together to figure this out.”

This shows you were actively listening, understand the problem, AND are ready to help. Do this during every interaction, and you’ll maintain rapport for years to come.

The Power of Little Words: Mastering Verbal Nods

You know those little sounds like “mm-hmm,” “okay,” and “yeah” that you pepper into conversations without even thinking? Those are verbal nods, and they’re surprisingly powerful in building rapport over the phone.

Why They Matter:

  • Conversation Traffic Cop: They keep things moving smoothly, letting the client know you’re following along without interrupting.
  • “I’m Listening!” Signal: A simple “right” or “I understand” shows the client they’re being heard, which makes them way more likely to open up.
  • Instant Rapport Booster: These little cues create a sense of connection and empathy – your client feels like you’re on the same team.

A Note on Balance: Don’t overdo it, or you might accidentally cut the client off. But a well-placed verbal nod can make all the difference!

Speak Their Language: The Power of Mirroring

Ever notice how you feel more connected to someone who uses similar phrases or slang as you? The same principle applies to customer service or sales calls! Here’s why mirroring your caller’s language is such a powerful rapport-builder:

  • Instant Connection: When you use their words, it subconsciously tells them, “Hey, we’re on the same wavelength!” This puts them at ease and makes them more open to working with you.
  • No Tech Confusion: If the client says their computer is “acting weird,” respond in kind. Trying to explain the exact technical problem right then can backfire.
  • Builds Trust: When customers feel truly understood, they trust you more. Mirroring their language shows that you’re actively listening and trying to see things from their perspective.

How to Do It:

You don’t have to copy them word-for-word. Instead, try weaving their key phrases naturally into your responses.

Example:

Client: “This new software is driving me crazy! Nothing makes sense.”

You: “I understand how frustrating it can be when new software doesn’t make sense. Let’s break this down together.”

Empathy: Your Customer Service Superpower

Think of empathy as the ability to step into your client’s shoes. When they’re stressed about an issue, it’s your job to understand how that feels and let them know you’re there to help. Here’s why this matters:

  • Feelings Are Important: Acknowledging a client’s frustration makes them feel heard and valued. This goes a long way in building trust.
  • Calmer Conversations: Empathy is like a fire extinguisher for angry customers. When they know you understand, they’re more likely to work with you instead of against you.
  • Understanding Leads to Better Solutions: When you understand the whole situation (why they’re calling, what they’ve tried, how frustrated they are), you can find the right solution faster.
  • Build Rapport Instantly: Showing a customer, “I get where you’re coming from,” builds trust faster than any troubleshooting checklist.
  • It Makes Your Job Easier: When you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, the whole interaction becomes more enjoyable. Happy customers = happier workdays.
  • Customers Remember Kindness: Solving a problem is great, but clients remember how you made them feel more than any fix. Empathy is what turns one-time customers into loyal ones.

Empathy in Action:

It’s as easy as adding these phrases to your toolkit:

  • “I can absolutely understand how frustrating that must be.”
  • “That sounds really stressful. Let’s see how we can fix this together.”
  • “I appreciate your patience while we figure this out.”

These simple phrases show the client you care about their experience, not just fixing the problem. That’s how you build lasting relationships.

The Power of Going Off-Script (Sometimes)

Scripts are great for training and keeping things consistent, but don’t be afraid to ditch them when the moment calls for it. Here’s why a little spontaneity can be a good thing:

  • Build Real Connections: People crave human interaction! A genuine conversation makes clients feel seen and heard, which goes way beyond following any script.
  • Build Trust: Natural conversations feel more honest. Customers can spot a forced script a mile away, but authenticity builds trust fast. Allow your team to inject a bit of their own personality into each call to make it human.

How to Do It Right:

  • Make Your Script Conversational: Does your script feel stiff and robotic? Rewrite it so it sounds more like how you’d actually talk to a friend.
  • Be a Guide, Not a Robot: Use your script as a roadmap, but don’t be afraid to take conversational detours that fit the situation.
  • Let Your Personality Shine: Can you crack a (tasteful) joke if it fits the mood? Share a relevant anecdote? Don’t be afraid to show you’re a real person!

Remember: It’s not about throwing the brand guidelines out the window. It’s about striking a balance between professional consistency and the connection that keeps customers returning.

Friendliness: Your Most Important Tool

Don’t underestimate the power of a warm, positive approach! It sets the whole mood for the call and can make even the trickiest issues feel less stressful. Here’s how to strike the right balance:

  • Warm Greeting: Begin with a friendly and cheerful opening. Even if your day’s been tough, letting warmth and positivity come through in your voice can significantly impact your client. A positive attitude can work wonders on its own.
  • Personal Touch: People love hearing their names! Using their name during the conversation makes the whole interaction feel more personal and engaging.
  • Maintain Positivity, Even in Tough Situations: Complaints happen. Stay positive and solution-focused – this helps the customer feel empowered to move forward, not stuck in frustration.

Remember: Being friendly doesn’t mean being unprofessional. It’s about creating a welcoming, helpful atmosphere that puts the customer at ease and makes them feel valued.

Mirroring Speed, Tone, and Style

Ever tried having a conversation with someone who talks super fast when you’re more of a slow-and-steady communicator? It’s jarring! The same goes for customer service calls. Here’s why mirroring your client’s style is so important:

  • Get on the Same Page: Talking at the same speed makes it easier for your client to follow along, which reduces miscommunication and gets problems solved faster.
  • Show You Care: When your tone matches theirs (“I understand you’re stressed” vs. a super-peppy “Let’s fix this!”), clients feel heard and understood.
  • Build a Connection: Some people are direct, and some like to chat. Matching their style makes them feel comfortable and more likely to work with you.

How to Do It:

Pay attention to these cues:

  • Speed: Are they talking fast or slow? Try to match their pace.
  • Tone: Upbeat, frustrated, matter-of-fact? Reflect a similar tone back to them.
  • Style: Straight to business or friendly chatter? Adapt accordingly.

Remember: You don’t have to be a chameleon. It’s about finding a middle ground where you’re professional, but you’re also connecting with them on their level.

Level Up Your Rapport with NLP

Okay, “Neurolinguistic Programming” might sound a bit intimidating. Still, it’s actually a set of easy-to-learn techniques that can significantly boost your rapport-building process. Here’s the breakdown:

  • The Science of Connection: NLP is all about understanding how people communicate (with both words and body language) and using that to build stronger connections.
  • Your Good Rapport Toolkit: Here’s what NLP can teach you:
    • Subtle Mirroring: Notice your client’s tone, pace, even word choice. Gently mirroring these back creates a sense of being on the same wavelength.
    • Positive Power Words: Swap out phrases like “I can’t” for “Let’s explore options.” This keeps the conversation focused on solutions.
    • Supercharged Listening: NLP helps you pick up on the feelings behind the words so you can respond with empathy and understanding.

Why It Matters: NLP isn’t about manipulation; it’s about making your clients feel genuinely heard and valued. This leads to smoother calls, happier customers, and maybe even less stress for you!

Want to learn more? There are tons of great NLP resources online specifically for customer service. Even learning a few techniques can make a big difference.

Contact Centers: Where Rapport = Results

Think of your contact center as the front line of customer relationships. Every call is a chance to impress or disappoint. Here’s how management can set the team up for rapport-building success:

  • Skills Matter: Don’t just train on tech issues! Workshops on empathy, active listening, and handling difficult emotions significantly affect customers’ feelings.
  • Authenticity Wins: Encourage advisors to ditch the script when it builds a better connection. Customers can tell when someone genuinely cares about helping them.
  • Learn From Every Call: Regular coaching shouldn’t just be about hitting targets. Discuss what worked (and didn’t work) to build rapport on specific calls.

The Problem with Focusing Too Much on Speed

It might seem efficient to focus on short calls, but it backfires! Here’s why a “quality over quantity” approach is smarter:

  • Customers Want Solutions: A rushed, unhelpful call leaves a worse impression than a slightly longer one that actually solves the problem.
  • Happy Center Agents = Happy Customers: Less pressure to rush means agents can focus on building real connections, which improves the customer experience for everyone.
  • Repeat Business is the Goal: Great service creates loyal customers who come back and recommend you to others. That’s worth more than saving a few minutes here and there.

Meeting Expectations: The Key to Customer Loyalty

Every interaction is a chance to prove your brand cares. Empower your team, focus on quality, and prioritize customer needs. That’s how you build the kind of loyalty that keeps businesses thriving!

The Bottom Line: Rapport Matters

We’ve covered a lot of ground, from the power of a smile in your voice to advanced techniques like NLP. But it all boils down to this: when customers feel understood and valued, it makes a huge difference in their experience – and your business’s success.

For busy IT companies, building rapport on every single call can be a challenge. That’s where a trusted outsourcing partner like CMS can step in.

With decades of experience, CMS acts as an extension of your team, providing the kind of personalized service that builds customer loyalty. Think of us as your secret weapon for amazing customer interactions 24/7/365.

Oh, and we know how to build rapport using positive language, professional sales skills, and optimized talking points that develop a harmonious relationship with your customers while sounding exactly like you and getting the results you’re seeking.

Ready to see how easy it can be? Let’s chat about your customer service needs and how partnering with CMS can give you more time to focus on what you do best.

By Last Updated: May 13, 2024Categories: Blog17.1 min read