Handling inbound calls is one of the most important customer service tasks there is. The job requires equal parts people skills and sales skills. That’s why it’s important to build rapport and truly connect with the person on the other end of the line. Callers want to like and trust the person they’re speaking to. With a basic understanding of human psychology, customer service providers can build that trust quicker than you might expect.
Good rapport means having empathy for one another. It means treating callers as individuals, with their own concerns, hopes, and fears. It also means positioning yourself as an extension of your brand – and handling all the challenges that come with that role. Once you learn how to build rapport with customers over the phone, communication becomes effortless. Of course, the work to build rapport begins from the moment you pick up the phone. Be ready the next time your phone rings with these tips for building customer rapport:
Exchange Names First
Building trust starts by forging real connections. Just like at any social event where you’re meeting new people, it helps to start with an introduction. The best way to build customer rapport is to meet them on a human level. By introducing yourself and asking their name in return, you instantly remind them that they’re more than just a face in the crowd. Instead of having a conversation between customer and employee, you meet as two human beings with common ground and mutual respect.
Once you’ve exchanged names, it’s easy to build customer rapport. Because you’ve singled the caller out and made them feel like an individual, they’ll be more inclined to share details about their question or concern. Of course, this strategy is only effective if you get the customer’s name right. If you’re speaking with someone whose name is difficult to pronounce, write it down phonetically so you can get it right every time.
Smile with Your Voice
Tone of voice can say a lot. When you’re answering phone call after phone call, it’s tempting to slip into monotone, especially if you find yourself repeating yourself a lot. If you’re hoping to learn how to build rapport with customers over the phone, start with a smile. Each time you pick up the phone is a new opportunity to delight a caller, solve problems, and inspire the person to do business with you again.
This isn’t just good customer service – it’s a powerful psychological tool you can use to keep yourself motivated. Smiling has been proven to release endorphins in the brain, lifting your mood and rubbing off on those around you. This contagious nature may also motivate your conversation partners to be more invested in the rapport-building process, too.
Listen More Than You Speak
One of the best ways to build customer rapport is to be a good listener. It’s more challenging than many people realize. Allowing callers to vent without interruption can be difficult, but listening to their rants can actually provide unique insight into the buyer’s journey and problems they encounter along the way. Even if you feel like you can save them time and energy by interrupting, it’s always best to let callers get it all out before you interject. This is basic phone etiquette, but we sometimes forget about best practices when we’re in the thick of conversation.
As you listen to a caller’s concerns, take notes and be ready to repeat the issue back to them almost word for word. By mirroring the way they speak, you send a clear message that you’re actually hearing what they have to say. Good rapport with customers starts with mutual understanding, and it’s impossible to get on the same page unless you’re truly listening – not just waiting for your turn to talk. After repeating the issue back and making sure you fully understand the problem, validate their concerns. Basic empathy can go a long way to cool down angry customers and win them over for good.
Adopt Caller Problems as Your Own
The language we use helps to create our reality. When callers dial in with a concern, they may naturally feel like it’s them versus you – that the issue at hand is a battle to be fought and won. In reality, your goals are likely already in alignment. Your customer wants their problem solved; you want your customers to be satisfied. This principle is at the heart of building customer rapport and relationships.
It’s easier than you might expect to adopt caller concerns as your own. Simply shifting your use of “I” to “we” can help demonstrate to callers that you’re on the same team. Acknowledge the problem using statements like “I recognize the situation is difficult, but I’m confident we can find a solution.” This kind of phrasing starts with personal recognition using “I” while finishing with “we” to create a sense of teamwork. It’s also a powerful way to turn a negative vibe into a positive one. More authentic than a simple “I understand,” statements like these can create a sense of action and demonstrate your willingness to resolve the issue.
Minimize Awkward Silences
Nobody likes to listen to dead air – especially in the age of dropped calls. Awkward silences can damage customer rapport, taking away the natural flow of conversation. Of course, these silences are to be expected, to some degree. Dead air often occurs when customer service representatives are stumped by a caller’s questions or concerns. If you’ve ever paused to consider what to say next, you can certainly relate to this all too common phone faux pas.
Stock responses can help to minimize these moments. While it might feel awkward to use scripted replies at first, they can really come in handy when you’re caught off guard by a comment from a caller. When saying nothing is the worst case scenario, a stock response like “thank you for sharing that,” or “well, that’s a first!” can go a long way to keep the conversation’s momentum going.
Add Your Personality to the Script
Many customer service representatives work from a carefully designed phone script. Call center services often offer customized call scripting as a perk for their business partners. Such a tool can do wonders for minimizing awkwardness and maintaining brand consistency. Unfortunately, scripts can also run the risk of sounding a bit robotic at times. In order to establish and maintain rapport with customers, bring your own personality to the conversation.
While sticking to the script is important, look for opportunities to let your personality shine through. Every conversation offers moments where you can be yourself, which is endearing to customers. It makes the interaction less stuffy and helps lower the caller’s guard so that it’s easier to work towards solutions.
Find Mutual Understanding Before Ending the Call
As you work to wind down your conversations, take some time to end the call summarizing the conversation and laying out possible next steps. Simple questions like “Is this correct?” or “Am I understanding this right?” can help clarify any last minute confusion. By including your caller in the planning of next steps, you up the odds that they’ll feel ownership over the process.
A big part of building customer rapport is being honest in your conversations. If you don’t know how to resolve an issue or aren’t sure of how to proceed, don’t be afraid to admit it aloud. A simple acknowledgment like “I’m not sure, but I can find out,” can continue to establish your brand as transparent and willing to do anything for the customer. It’s okay not to have all the answers, so long as you’re vocal in your efforts to find a resolution.
Your Partner in Customer Experience
The benefits of building rapport with customers are obvious. Actually putting in the work to do so, however, is easier than it sounds. If you don’t have the time or manpower necessary to rethink the way your organization answers inbound calls, consider partnering with MAP Communications. For more than 30 years, we’ve worked with organizations across industries to provide 24/7 customer service for callers. In that time, we’ve established ourselves as one of the leading live phone answering services in the business.
Allow our highly-trained, highly personable virtual receptionists and call center agents to represent you and your brand. We can work from customizable call scripts or follow established protocols for inbound calls. Whatever you dream up for your ideal customer experience, we can help to make a reality. Request more information or sign up for a free trial to see the MAP advantage for yourself.
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