By building rapport with customers, agents can create connections that inspire loyalty. Other benefits include:
- Increasing the satisfaction from every call
- Encouraging a friendly environment that complements call handling
- Boosting the chances of an upsell or cross-sell
- Enhancing the quality of the agent and customer experience
- Bolstering retention rates
Unfortunately, building rapport is not always easy, especially when a customer begins the call with an impatient, frustrated, or even angry tone of voice.
However, by coaching and roleplaying these ten tricks, customers can begin to engage in better conversations with customers.
1. Use Reflective Listening
Reflective listening involves an agent paraphrasing what the customer says back to them, demonstrating that they have listened to and understood their problem. Harnessing this technique reassures customers and gives agents the platform to show authentic empathy.
If the agent can also give verbal nods as the customer speaks – using short expressions such as “yes”, “uh-huh”, and “I see” – they can demonstrate that they are listening closely to the customer, further building rapport.
2. Acknowledge and Empathy
Acknowledging the problem and showing empathy help agents demonstrate to customers that they are on their side. A simple statement such as: “Thanks so much for alerting us to this issue, it certainly sounds frustrating,” is often all that is necessary, as the agent does not get defensive, accepts that something has gone wrong, and relates to the emotional impact.
Of course, an authentic tone of voice must accompany such a statement to build the desired connections. Yet, if coaches encourage agents to “put themselves in the customer’s shoes”, such a tone should come naturally.
3. Take Ownership of the Query
After acknowledging the customer and empathizing with them, agents can make a statement of ownership to move the focus of the conversation over to the positive: finding an appropriate resolution.
Using a phrase such as: “Let’s see how we can make this right,” demonstrates that the agent is shouldering the burden of the issue and proposes a notion of teamwork, which may further build rapport.
4. Offer Compliments to the Customer
Complimenting the customer is a great way to create rapport, making the customer feel good about themselves and their interactions with your company.
If the customer demonstrates that they have done some research prior to the call, compliment their proactivity. When they share their address – and it’s in a nice place – tell them they live in a lovely area.
Remember, as the saying goes: “A compliment is the easiest thing to give and the nicest thing to receive.”
5. Seize Upon Shared Interests
A contact center agent can deepen rapport by relating to a customer’s interest during the call. Perhaps it is a favorite hobby, sport, or television series. Whatever the case, the more common ground, the higher the likelihood of forming genuine connections with the customer.
Agents can also think outside the box to make the most of this trick. For example, do they hear a pet in the background? Ask the customer about it, and demonstrate a common interest. Doing so will build rapport.
6. Apologize Properly
Generic apologies to customers, such as: “I’m sorry for any inconvenience,” or: “I’m sorry you feel that way,” often frustrate customers as they lack authenticity.
Instead, an apology that references the issue directly is more personal and much more likely to be accepted by the customer. From there, the agent has a better platform to build rapport.
7. Bridge Silences
Periods of silence during customer conversations – often referred to as dead-air time – inhibit rapport as interactions grow stale. These silences often occur when agents search systems.
However, coaching agents to talk to customers while doing so helps to sustain rapport. Meanwhile, management can play its part by enhancing the agent desktop and integrating systems to streamline the process of searching for critical information.
8. Avoid Making Risky Promises
Agents (particularly outbound) should avoid making promises they cannot keep. Many sales associates get carried away when closing a deal and make promises that the offering or organization cannot fulfill.
However, customers have trust in companies that deliver. As a result, agents must maintain their obligations, whether sticking to the estimated call wait time or providing a discount.
9. Manage Your Emotions
Despite understanding all the tricks of the trade, agents often let their emotions get the better of them, hindering rapport. When a customer is disgruntled and throwing accusations at them, it is very easy to fall into this trap.
Yet, contact centers can build resilience by bringing agents together and asking them to discuss difficult experiences with customers. They can then empathize with one another, show support, and understand that they are not alone in dealing with this issue. After, they can share best practices for managing such situations, which may help to bolster customer rapport.
10. “Keep It Simple, Silly”
Today, people are busier than ever, and service providers should avoid bamboozling customers with information. Coaching call handling techniques like signposting and simplifying agent support content (i.e., knowledge base articles and scripts) will help here.
Contact center managers can help agents build rapport by setting suitable targets. For more on this topic, read our article: 10 Contact Center Agent KPIs to Monitor Performance