What Is Customer Rapport? 8 Tips on How to Build It

    Building positive customer rapport is essential for retention and growing your business.

    With more options than ever before, it’s easy for a customer to jump ship to a rival business and, in most cases, once they leave—they’re gone for good.

    It doesn’t take much to flip that switch either. Nearly 90% of customers will leave a brand after just one or two negative experiences.

    At its core, building rapport is about building trust.

    This feeds into every aspect of the customer experience, increasing satisfaction, encouraging long-term loyalty, and, ultimately, having a big impact on the bottom line.

    To cultivate this sense of rapport, you’ll need to prioritize communication skills, problem-solving, and more.

    In this post, we’re going to explore why customer rapport is so important for business and share our most useful tips for building rapport through video calls, on the phone, via text, and even on social media.

    What is customer rapport?

    Customer rapport is the positive relationship that develops between agents and customers, built on a foundation of mutual understanding, respect, and trust. Without this rapport, you’ll end up sacrificing customer satisfaction and retention.

    Rapport applies to every type of interaction:

    • Phone calls
    • Video meetings
    • Text messages
    • Emails
    • And every other channel of communication

    No matter how you’re communicating, you must ensure that each and every customer feels valued and understood. In the context of a call center, agents must not only find a resolution for the customer’s issue, but try to forge a personal connection too.

    To develop this customer rapport, you really need to prioritize soft skills for your call center agents:

    • Show empathy: Step into the customer’s shoes and understand how they’re feeling (and why they’re feeling that way.)
    • Practice active listening: Focus up and concentrate on what the customer is saying so you can understand fully and respond appropriately.
    • Be patient: Don’t get frustrated with the customer, this will completely ruin any rapport you’ve built up.
    • Communicate with clarity: Be clear and concise. The easier the conversation is to understand, the more relaxed and receptive the customer will be.
    • Stay adaptable: Where necessary, tweak your style of communication to suit different customers.

    Why is it important to build rapport with customers?

    It’s no secret that better customer relationships bring significant benefits. More than half of consumers are unlikely to use businesses that don’t respond to reviews, highlighting the importance of engaging with customer feedback online.

    But that’s only one aspect of maintaining rapport, how else does it impact your contact center?

    Boosts customer loyalty and retention

    Gaining new customers is expensive—often five to ten times more expensive than selling to a current customer. On top of that, existing customers spend 67% more, on average, than new customers. When you really make customers feel heard, you’re showing them that they’re respected and valued—making them more likely to become repeat customers and save you a ton of money.

    >Establishes trust with your brand

    Building brand loyalty and trust with your customers is critical to establishing your organization as authentic and transparent. Critically, this feeds into customers being more willing to recommend your business, leading to more chances to expand your customer base.

    Gives you a competitive advantage

    Brands with better customer rapport can leverage it to gain an edge over their competition.

    Positive rapport creates a loyal customer base less likely to be swayed by competitors' offers. It can also lead to positive word-of-mouth and referrals, further enhancing a company’s reputation and market position.

    Customers can be fiercely loyal to their favorite brands, and customer-centric companies may be up to 60% more profitable than their competitors.

    Avoids call escalations

    Effective rapport-building can significantly reduce the number of escalations within your contact center—a major industry pain point as you know.

    Escalated customer issues are costly and time-consuming. They can massively impact metrics like first contact resolution (FCR) and average handle time (AHT), and take away valuable time from the employees involved.

    When agents are taught how to build rapport with customers, they become more adept at handling angry customers and tense situations. Besides, customers who feel understood are way less likely to escalate in the first place.

    Improves customer satisfaction KPIs

    Customer rapport directly impacts key performance indicators (KPIs) related to customer satisfaction, including:

    • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • Customer Effort Score (CES)

    Failure to build strong customer rapport will lead to a big negative impact on these KPIs.

    Agents who build rapport are better equipped to understand and address customer needs, the crux of any call center’s operation and the key to solving problems effectively.

    Opens up sales opportunities

    Positive CX encourages customers to share their experiences with others, generating word-of-mouth referrals that can bring new business and customers without paying a dime towards marketing.

    Agents who build rapport can more easily cross-sell and upsell too, as customers are more receptive to recommendations from someone they trust.

    Additionally, long-term customers are more likely to participate in loyalty programs and take advantage of special offers, further driving your sales.

    How to build rapport with customers: 8 examples for phone, live chat, sales, and more

    Show genuine interest

    It may seem pretty obvious, but making sure your agents are genuine in their reactions and conversations can go a long way in building customer rapport. Even simple things such as remembering names can make an impact in a customer’s day.

    Tip #1 for agents: For names that you may find difficult to pronounce, make a note of the phonetic pronunciation in your CRM for future reference.

    There’s a fine line between being sincere and faking it though—and customers can tell.

    Instead of training agents to follow scripts to a T, make sure they’re treating customers like human beings instead of a faceless voice.

    Asking probing questions and always showing empathy is an excellent way for agents to cultivate genuine connections with customers.

    Find common ground

    Naturally, we all feel a little more secure when we’re in familiar territory. Humans are creatures of habit, and in most cases, reaching out to a contact center is uncomfortable. You only do it when you really have to.

    To make it easier, agents can try to create a sense of companionship.

    Tip #2 for agents: Try the FORD approach (asking questions about family, occupation, recreation, and dreams) to learn a little about the customer and make some notes in your CRM for later.

    Asking open-ended questions can also prompt the customer to share a little about themselves and help to build better customer rapport.

    However, it’s equally important to not overstep your boundaries and drift too far away from the topic at hand.

    See things from their point of view

    Especially when it comes to solving issues for customers, the most important thing for them is to be heard and understood.

    A study by the Harvard Business Review showed that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers, highlighting the importance of customer rapport.

    This is where your agent’s soft skills come into play: they should be able to feel, understand, and sympathize with customers if they want to provide good customer service. Things like empathy and emotional intelligence are critical here; and you can even encourage agents to let customers vent their frustrations to make sure they feel heard. 

    Tip #3 for agents: Empathize using the “I + We” approach. For example, “I understand your frustration, and we are going to find a solution.”

    This shows customers that their problem isn’t just their own, but a shared problem that can be solved together.

    Practice active listening

    Active listening is a communication technique where the listener fully engages with the speaker by paying close attention, showcasing their ability to:

    • Understand the customer
    • Reflect on what they’ve said
    • Clarify the problem
    • Respond appropriately

    Here’s a quick checklist for active listening:

    • Avoid distractions
    • Use verbal and non-verbal cues to show engagement
    • Paraphrase to ensure comprehension
    • Ask questions for clarity
    • Remember details of the conversation

    Agents can—and should—practice active listening whenever possible. Not only does it show customers that you care, it can also shed light on the root causes of an issue. It’s the key to showing customers that you aren’t just looking to end a call as soon as possible. Rather, you're willing to listen, understand, and work with them to find a solution.

    Be specific (and positive) with your language

    Similar to active listening (and it should be employed alongside it) is simply being specific with the terms relating to the customer’s problem.

    That means using concrete, common terms to show that agents fully understand the issue. Things like using the exact name of a product or service involved shows customers that your agents are actively listening and that they understand the guest’s issue.

    Let's look at two examples.

    Example 1: “I can see that your shipment is delayed, sorry about that.”

    Example 2: “I can see that the shipment of your Bosch Series 4 Oven is delayed. This is because of the storm on the East Coast this week disrupting shipping routes, but I’ve looked into it and your revised delivery date is Friday, May 24. I’d like to apologize for any inconvenience and offer you a 10% discount for your next order.”

    We can see that specificity and CX go hand-in-hand.

    On top of that, the language that your agents use should be positive, too.

    Keeping morale high with a positive tone can help prevent frustration and escalations. By using positive language and focusing on the solution, rather than the problem, agents can build customer rapport while helping them.

    Don’t speak too fast (or too slow!)

    Speed isn’t the goal when it comes to customer service, but it is still an important factor overall. Customers generally want a smooth and fast process, but that doesn’t mean your agents need to burn the candle at both ends to get the job done. This means that the pace of the conversation can’t be too fast or too slow, as both can lead to an unsatisfying resolution.

    If your agents are breezing through interactions and speaking quickly, customers might miss vital information or get frustrated when asking agents to repeat themselves. Plus, agents rushing through an interaction can make customers feel like they aren’t interested or are deliberately skipping over information and being unhelpful.

    The same goes for being too slow. Keeping them on for too long or taking a long time to answer questions can lead to frustration. At the end of the day, customers just want to have their problem solved, and they don’t want to be stuck dealing with their issue for any longer than needed.

    It’s generally accepted that a rate between 140-160 words per minute is ideal, as this gives people enough time to listen, process, and absorb information.

    Observe their body language (and manage yours)

    For interactions where customers and agents can see each other, body language becomes an incredibly important factor. Observing how your customer carries themselves and how your agents reflect it can be incredibly telling for how an interaction will go.

    The easiest way to help customers feel relaxed and welcome is simply through a smile—and this even translates over the phone, too. Eye contact can also be important here (but make sure to remind agents not to stare, and instead keep it natural).

    Tip #4 for agents: Try to mirror the customer.

    Mirroring techniques can be especially useful for sales teams, as it makes them seem far more relatable and empathetic.

    This includes mirroring body movements, gestures, and expressions that your customers make, subtly showing them that you’re on the same side and that you understand them. It can also factor into calls too, with vocal mirroring in relation to their tone, language, volume, and other speech mannerisms.

    But, of course, this is an area where going overboard can be detrimental. Copying their every move can come across as mockery, so agents may need some practice or coaching opportunities to find the right balance.

    Leverage social media

    Social media is one of the most impactful parts of a company’s marketing strategies, but it’s also a crucial way for customers to interact with companies—whether it’s to reach out for help, sing their praises, or make issues known to the general public.

    Maintaining a positive brand image on social media is important for businesses as it’s a true representation of how they want to be perceived. Having a friendly social media persona helps frame a positive customer experience from the start before customers even reach out to interact.

    However, it’s important to remember how much your customers value interactions on social media as well: 76% of customers expect brands to respond to them within 24 hours of reaching out

    Customers are, of course, willing to wait longer than they would for a response on the phone, but there’s still a limit. Maintaining speedy responses on social media can show customers that your business is lively, active, and engaging with its customers on a regular basis.

    What’s different when building rapport with a customer over the phone?

    Building rapport with customers is essential for any call center aiming to deliver excellent service and retain clients. While the techniques used in face-to-face interactions can be adapted for phone conversations, there are key differences to consider for optimal results.

    Active listening is even more crucial

    In face-to-face interactions, body language and facial expressions play a significant role in communication. Over the phone, you rely entirely on your voice and listening skills.

    Active listening involves more than just hearing words; it’s about understanding the emotions and intentions behind them. Use verbal nods like “I see” and “I understand” to show empathy and keep the conversation flowing.

    Tone of voice matters

    Your tone of voice can convey confidence, warmth, and sincerity, helping to build trust quickly. Smiling while talking can actually make your voice sound more friendly and approachable.

    Pay attention to your pitch, pace, and volume to ensure you’re communicating effectively and making the customer feel valued.

    Personalization is key

    Just as you would in person, personalize your interaction to make the customer feel special. Use their name, refer to previous interactions, and tailor your responses to their specific needs and concerns.

    This level of personalization can transform a routine call into a memorable experience for the customer.

    Clear and concise communication is essential

    Without visual cues, clarity becomes even more important. Avoid jargon and be clear and concise in your explanations.

    Summarize key points and confirm understanding to prevent misunderstandings. This ensures the customer feels informed and supported throughout the call.

    Building an emotional connection is top priority

    Creating an emotional connection over the phone requires genuine interest and empathy. Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue and show that you care about their experience. Express empathy for their concerns and celebrate their successes with them.

    4 best rapport-building questions for customer service

    Building customer rapport in a contact center starts with the right questions. These open the door to understanding the customer's needs and establishing a connection beyond the transactional. Here are some of the best rapport-building questions that can transform your customer service experience:

    • "How has your day been so far?" This question personalizes the interaction right off the bat.
    • "What can I do to make your experience better today?" Focuses on the customer's immediate needs.
    • "Have you used our [product/service] before, or is this your first time?" Tailors the conversation based on the customer's familiarity.
    • "Is there anything more I can assist you with?" Shows eagerness to solve all of their problems, not just the initial reason for contact.

    Conclusion: Build rapport to build your business + 2 extra resources

    Customer interactions are rarely a one-time scenario, and retaining customers is critical to any business. Building relationships between your business and its customers is essential, but so is maintaining that connection through your customer service.

    Like any relationship, it builds over time through repeated interactions, remembering key details, showing interest and empathy, and multiple other factors.

    By working with your agents to reinforce that positive experience and showing them how to build rapport with customers, you’ll be able to make each interaction memorable, effective, and engaging.

    Want some more resources on how to build rapport with customers? You can check out our eBook on Soft Skills Training for Call Center Agents or watch our webinar on AI Coaching and Developing New Skills.


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      How do you build rapport between you and your client?

      To build rapport with a client, actively listen to their needs and concerns, showing genuine empathy and understanding. Personalize interactions by using their name and referencing past conversations. Communicate clearly and concisely, ensuring they feel informed and supported. Maintain a positive and friendly tone, and ask open-ended questions to encourage dialogue. 

      What are three ways to build rapport with customers?

      The top three ways to build rapport with customers are:

      1. Personalization: Use their name and reference past interactions to make them feel valued.
      2. Feedback: Encourage and act on customer feedback.
      3. Positive Tone: Maintain a friendly, empathetic tone to build trust and connection.