Top tips for building rapport on the telephone
Rapport building is an integral part of the communication process. Lack, or absence, of rapport can fundamentally affect the outcome of any conversation. Christine Knott shares her top tips with us…Isn’t it true that sometimes we just ‘click’ with some people and get on really well with them? In such instances the conversation runs smoothly, it is enjoyable and the results are so much better than when the communication is strained and we fail to ‘gel’ with the person we are talking to.
Telephone conversations in call centres are a prime example of how rapport can help the outcome. You may have a limited time to allocate to your caller so you need to use that time effectively to get the information you need to be able to provide the best service. Good rapport will get you there faster.
Good rapport isn’t about ‘making best friends’ with your caller. It means creating a comfortable ‘state’ where all parties converse freely and comfortably. The extra benefit is that it makes the time you spend with your caller more enjoyable.
Here are some tips for creating good rapport.
Open the call with a smile
Believe it, a smile can be heard and a ‘smiling voice’ is more welcoming and relaxing. Your caller will subconsciously appreciate it and like you.
Start the conversation with a ‘warm up’
A simple question that will let your caller know you are human! This could be ‘how is your day so far?’ or ‘how is the weather where you are today? Better than here, I hope!’ Most people will respond to you in a friendly manner and it helps to relax you and your caller by ‘breaking the ice’. Reply to their answer with a relevant but positive response and then move the call forward:
‘That’s great, I’m glad you are having a good day. How can I help with your call today?’ or ‘So the weather is as bad as it is here, never mind, the sun could be out tomorrow for us. How can I help with your call today?’
Avoid distractions and allow yourself to concentrate on your caller and their conversation.
Let the caller know you are listening
Let the caller know you are listening by responding with gentle and soft ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ as they speak.
Allow the speaker to finish what they are saying – practise this with every call. If you interrupt, your caller could become frustrated.
Use words that your caller uses
Use words that your caller uses in their conversation, especially any adjectives – the words they use to describe something. They have chosen to use the words, so they have a relevance to the content, an alternative word may not have the same meaning for them.
Example: your caller says ‘The results were excellent’.
In this instance the word ‘excellent’ was chosen because it reflects what the speaker felt. To build rapport use the same word back at any relevant time. Example: ‘I agree with what you said earlier, the results were excellent’. If you were to reply with: ‘I agree with what you said earlier, the results were ok’, it will subconsciously confuse your caller because they didn’t say ‘ok’; their chosen word was ‘excellent’.
Show empathy with your caller
To show empathy means to share in another’s emotions, thoughts, or feelings, and is a great way of building rapport. Empathy can be shown by using phrases such as: ‘I understand what you mean’. ‘I can see where you are coming from’. ‘That must have made you feel really good’, ‘I understand why you would think that way’.
Be yourself and relax
If you are uptight or trying to be someone or something you are not, it will act as a barrier to building rapport.
Go off script
If you read a script as part of your job, put your own personality into it so that it sounds as though the words are your words and that you are not reading from a piece of paper. Use inflection, modulation and pitch to help make the script interesting for the listener. Your caller will thank you for it. Isn’t it true that we sometimes ‘switch off’ when we hear what sounds like a script being read to us?
Be friendly. It is possible to remain professional and courteous and still be friendly. This is easily achieved by using good inflection and modulation in your voice, by showing an interest in your caller’s conversation and by sharing laughter and lighthearted moments when the opportunity to do so arises during the call.
Enjoy your rapport building. It will make your calls more productive and pleasant for both you and your caller.
Christine Knott is MD of specialist training company Beyond The Box. For more information on Beyond The Box and their range of services, go to www.beyondthebox.co.uk or call 0845 270 6520.