Building Rapport

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Rapport Building: Basic Principles

Oftentimes, the flow and outcome of a call will depend largely on the way that we interact with the customer. Learning to develop a more comfortable relationship with our customers will improve both our and your customers’ experiences on the phone. In doing so, we:

  • Improve the likelihood of first call resolution as callers are less likely to become frustrated and have to call back.
  • Facilitate, the troubleshooting process, as customers will be more likely to feel safe and in capable hands.
  • Increase our call control. Customers will retaliate or resistless often when common points of contention arise.
  • Make our conversations more pleasant and improve workplace morale.

Here are some ways that we can improve our rapport building:

Tone and inflection.

  • These have a huge impact on how our customer perceives and responds to us.
    Sounding friendly and approachable is the first step to having someone trust us, whether they are directly aware of it or not.

Reflective statements.

  • Customers may often become frustrated because they feel that we “aren’t understanding” or “aren’t listening” to them. We can show them we are listening by summarizing (reflecting) their own words. If a customer gives us a long story about what’s gone wrong, we can say “What I’m hearing is that…” followed by a summary of their statement.
  • When customers say things that suggest they are frustrated or angry, we can validate their emotion through reflective statements even if we don’t agree with what they are saying:
    “It sounds like your experiences thus far have been negative.” You can then take charge of the call flow by saying: “let’s take some steps to try to get to the bottom of things.” This both validates the customer’s emotions to show they are understood and grants you control of the call.

Thoughtful word choice.

  • Using non-aggressive, non-accusatory, and compassionate language is a cornerstone of communication. When helping the customer and giving direction, using words such as “we” instead of “you” will make it seem like you are approaching the problem as a team:
    – Ex. “Next, let’s try a simple power cycle of the equipment before moving on to more difficult steps.”
  • If we think the customer will interpret our directions or the outcome of the situation as undesirable or inconvenient we can say it so that they know we understand their position, and confidently explain to them why it’s important.
  • “I understand the inconvenience this may cause, but the next step towards getting things resolved is going to be to…  It is a relatively easy fix if it were to be the problem, and we want to make sure we are thorough where we can be.” In my daily calls and troubleshooting, I like to use V.E.C.T.O.R.

Live and breathe confidence over the phone in both tone and word choice.

  • When we sound confident our customer is way more likely to have faith that we are not
    Leading them astray, and that the steps we are taking are productive. Customers will often get frustrated when they feel like we are wasting their time with “useless troubleshooting”. If you propose a resolution, be confident in it. If it isn’t definitive, explain what the next steps would be should it fall through so that the customer understands the direction on their next call.
  • “There is a good chance this issue will be resolved by changing phone cables. If it turns out that the phone cable isn’t the cause, please give us a callback. We will want to escalate your ticket to the carrier. They would do some remote testing and call you in the next 24-48 hours to follow up with you and book a technician visit if required.”

Understand the line between professional and casual.

  • It is possible to be friendly and approachable, and even joke and laugh with the customer, all while maintaining professionalism. Knowing when to “get down to business” and when to engage in a friendly way with the customer is a sense that can be developed through experience, and trial an error. As long as you can get back into sync with the customer and gain call control back, going out of sync is not a problem.

There are so many more things that you can do to build rapport, but these are some of the principles or ideas that cover the basics and should help tremendously if we succeed in implementing them into our conversations.

Despite our best efforts, there will be times where customers appear very standoffish and defensive or act in other ways that are not necessarily conducive to moving our call forward.
Sometimes it can’t be helped. Those cases are rare, however, and with most people, being careful and deliberate in our approach will dramatically change how they respond to us. These communication skills are valuable both over the phone and our everyday interactions with the people around us. Hope it helps!

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