Rapport Building: The Ultimate Guide to Building Strong Customer Relationships (with Examples)

Prashanth Kancherla

Nov 1, 2023 | 13 mins read

Rapport transcends all facets of life, both personal and professional. It’s arguably more important in the latter context, as effective communication and trust are key components of successful business relationships. Customer service teams, in particular, benefit from a strong rapport with their customers as it cultivates loyalty and promotes business growth. Whether you’re looking to increase customer satisfaction or just enhance the overall team dynamics at your workplace, fostering a culture of rapport is essential.

This article explains the intricacies of rapport, from what it is to what it looks like in action. It also lists practical steps that organizations can take to promote rapport between their call center staff and customers. Let’s get started.

What Does Rapport Look Like?

Good rapport looks like a strong connection between two people. It begins with open communication, where both parties feel free to express themselves without fear of judgment or criticism. Mutual trust is also important – both sides need to be confident in their ability to rely on the other in order to create a healthy and meaningful relationship.

Good rapport also involves understanding the other person and their needs. This requires taking the time to get to know them, such as by asking questions and being genuinely interested in their responses. Doing this creates a sense of shared understanding, and allows both parties to feel comfortable with one another.

What Is Rapport Building?

Rapport building is the process of developing and maintaining a positive relationship with someone. It involves creating mutual trust, respect, understanding, and cooperation between two or more people by fostering open communication.

This can be done in person or through digital channels like video calls, email, messaging apps, or social media. On a foundational level, all rapport building starts with being present and attentive to the other person. This means actively listening to what they have to say, asking questions, and responding in a way that is genuine and thoughtful.

Need rapport building illustrated a little more clearly? Let’s delve into storytime with these fictional examples of good and bad rapport:

Examples of Good Rapport

While it’s hard to put into exact words, most people will be able to identify good rapport when they see it. The interaction is positive, constructive, and humanizing, while its outcome empowers both sides to communicate with the other more effectively in the future. We’ve provided two examples of what rapport building meaning might look like in a real-world scenario below.

Good Rapport Example #1

John is a freelance web designer looking for his first big client. He meets with Bob, the owner of a small business who is looking to revamp their website. After some initial conversation and getting-to-know-you questions, John and Bob begin discussing their mutual interest in sports.

John reveals that he was a star athlete in high school and recounts some of his experiences on the field, while Bob shares stories about how he coached his son’s little league team for several years. They share multiple laughs and reminisce about the good old days.

John then connects back to business by mentioning how he had a chance to design a website for one of Bob’s competitors before, which sparks further conversation. By the end of their meeting, John and Bob have a clear understanding of each other’s interests and backgrounds, as well as an appreciation for the other’s knowledge in their respective fields.

Good Rapport Example #2

Emily, a sales representative for a beauty product company, takes the time to get to know her potential customer, Mike, by asking questions and listening intently to what he has to say. She explains the product and its benefits in detail while intertwining stories about her own life that Mike can relate to. Mike walks away feeling comfortable and confident in Emily’s product. He appreciates the fact that she took the time to understand him, get to know his life, and explain her product in a way he could relate to.

Examples of Bad Rapport

Bad rapport is the exact opposite of good rapport. It’s defined by judgmental attitudes, a lack of effective communication, and a general feeling of discomfort. Bad rapport isn’t always intentional – sometimes, it’s simply the product of someone’s own personal problems. Yet, the implications can extend far beyond a single conversation. See two examples below.

Bad Rapport Example #1

Rob runs an auto shop that specializes in repairing classic cars. He has an appointment with Jane, who owns a vintage car that needs some serious work done to it. When they meet for the first time, Rob dives right into the technical issues that need to be addressed, without taking the time to get to know Jane’s story or background. He talks quickly and interrupts her when she tries to talk, leaving Jane feeling unheard and uncomfortable. Rob and Jane’s conversation ends abruptly, with Rob ending it by saying he’ll call her later with an estimate.

By not taking the time to build rapport, meaning, or connection first, Rob has created a poor relationship between himself and his customer. It’s safe to say that she would be less likely to trust him with her classic car if he had taken more time to have a human-to-human conversation.

Bad Rapport Example #2

Sue, a call center support agent, has been on shift for six hours already and is just itching to end her day. She takes a call from an irate customer, who proceeds to tell her about how the product he purchased isn’t working properly. Sue responds with “I’m sorry for your inconvenience,” in a clearly put-out tone. She then proceeds to ask the customer a series of questions without so much as introducing herself and does not make a single effort to build rapport with him. At this point, the customer is fed up and demands that he speak with a manager. Sue, still in her cold and unengaged state, tells him that she doesn’t have the authority to transfer his call – further angering him.

In this example, it’s clear that rapport was not established between Sue and her customer. Even if the product wasn’t working correctly, a courteous introduction could have gone a long way in creating a more positive experience for both of them.

Why Maintaining Rapport In Business Is So Hard

The tricky thing about rapport in business is that it’s not a naturally occurring thing. People come to the table with an expectation of professionalism, often misinterpreting that word to mean impersonal and structured. Conversations become bland, leading those engaged in them to check out mentally and emotionally. This is why so many employers tout the importance of a welcoming work culture – it encourages staff to get out of their shells, relate to one another more, and ultimately collaborate more effectively.

Beyond productivity, all companies should be concerned about the impact that rapport – or a lack thereof – can have on interactions with customers. They’re the lifeblood of any business, and if they don’t feel comfortable relating to the people behind the organization (whether in person or on social media), they’ll likely take their patronage elsewhere.

Customer service teams and call centers are particularly susceptible to this type of issue. Interacting with tens, if not hundreds of people on a daily basis, staff members must be able to maintain a friendly dialogue with everyone they speak to. That can be difficult considering the many unfriendly and frustrated voices that they’ll inevitably come across.

Expanding on the examples from earlier, it’s also often the case that employees just don’t appreciate the importance of rapport building nor are they able to recognize when their own behavior is hindering their ability to engage with customers. All day every day phone calls and complaints would reasonably take a toll on anyone, regardless of how great of a person they might be on their day off.

The Advantages of Good Rapport

In business contexts, rapport building is essential for developing successful working relationships with colleagues, clients, and customers. It’s rapport that determines others’ perspectives of you, and ultimately how willing they may be to work with you or purchase from your company.

But the benefits go far beyond the simple idea of ‘making a good impression’. Establishing rapport can also improve a team’s productivity, increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, and help foster more meaningful relationships in the workplace. We’ve compiled a few of the most commonly overlooked advantages that come with good rapport below.

Improved Problem-Solving

The ability to create meaningful connections with people can have a positive effect on one’s problem-solving abilities. When we establish a good rapport, conversations become easier and more productive, allowing us to ask better questions and generate better solutions. It also encourages collaboration from the people around us, allowing for different perspectives and ideas to be shared.

Increased Productivity

Good rapport can encourage a team to work together more effectively, leading to an increase in productivity. When team members trust each other and feel comfortable communicating openly, it’s easier to get things done. Between employees and customers, strong rapport makes conversations more constructive, enabling issues to be sorted out quickly and with minimal disruption. This is an incredibly valuable benefit for call centers that need to maintain low wait times.

Increased Trust

Building rapport can help build trust, especially when dealing with upset customers. Customers feel valued, and your team remains motivated to provide excellent service.  Customers trust you because they know you understand them, and this trust becomes the bedrock for further interactions and collaborations. Additionally, the trust established through rapport can turn unhappy customers into loyal ones by showing that you genuinely care about their concerns and are committed to resolving them.

Strengthened Relationships

Building good rapport acts as the glue that binds customers and businesses, nurturing relationships that are not only stronger but also enduring. It’s the secret ingredient for creating meaningful connections that withstand the test of time and challenges. when your team shares good rapport with customers, they work together seamlessly. This translates into effective communication, better support, and a more satisfying customer experience.

Word-of-Mouth Recommendations

Building strong rapport with customers not only keeps them satisfied but also turns them into enthusiastic advocates for your business. Satisfied customers, who have experienced excellent service and a genuine connection, often become your brand’s ambassadors. They willingly share their positive experiences with friends, family, and colleagues, effectively driving new clientele to your business through trusted referrals.

How to Build Rapport With Customers

Building rapport with clients isn’t an exact science, but it is a skill that every human being has the potential to acquire. We’re friendly creatures by nature, after all, and most people are willing to establish good relationships if approached with the right attitude. This section outlines eight simple steps that are essential to effectively building a rapport with customers.

1. Recognize the Problem

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing its existence. You won’t be able to improve your team’s customer service without understanding how they currently do things. Observe the conversations that they have, listening both to their words and tone of voice. While every employee is sure to be unique in their approach, there may be underlying lessons everyone can use to improve.

Symptoms of poor rapport in customer service include:

  • Unnecessarily long call resolution times
  • Unfriendly or unhelpful language
  • Insincere tone
  • Failure to listen
  • Long gaps of silence during conversations
  • Anger, frustration, or impatience from either staff or customers

2. Leverage Data

Rapport-building is a human-to-human job, but that doesn’t mean computers can’t help. Like many areas of business, customer service can stand to benefit from data analysis. It opens up an objective view of the situation, often highlighting problematic areas that wouldn’t be as obvious to manual observation. Start by looking at customer satisfaction surveys  and other metrics you have available. The more sources that inform your data analysis, the better.

Try combining:

  • Customer Experience (CX) surveys
  • Customer Service Interaction (CSI) data
  • Sales figures
  • Social media sentiment analysis
  • Call resolution times
  • First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

3. Review for Accuracy

Amidst the great pressure of trying to tangibly improve their teams’ rapport, call center managers often forget this all-important step – #3. Data is only as valuable as it is accurate and reliable. Researchers know this well, and it’s why they subject their findings to a thorough review before making decisions based on them.

‘Data cleaning’ refers to the process of parsing through collections of information to eliminate errors and inaccuracies. It can be done manually or with a computer algorithm.

Data cleaning seeks to identify and fix things like:

  • Duplicate entries
  • Outdated information
  • Misspellings and typos
  • Incomplete or blank fields
  • Inconsistent formatting across different pieces of data

4. Analyze the Data

Next comes the fun part – data analysis. This is when all the information collected and cleaned in the previous steps comes together for a holistic review.

With enough context, you’ll start to see correlations between customer satisfaction and different variables. For example, maybe customers whose calls are resolved quickly are more likely to be satisfied than those who wait longer for resolution. You can then use this data to better inform customer service decision-making, such as allocating more resources to the areas that need them or creating targeted teams for high-risk calls.

5. Start Planning

With a few areas of concern identified, you will be ready to begin strategically planning just what exactly you’ll do to address them. We touched on a couple of examples in the last step, but it’s important to recognize that not all call centers experience the same challenges with rapport. Your plan shouldn’t look like someone else’s – it should be tailored to the findings at hand.

6. Make Goals SMART

Another common mistake made during the rapport improvement process, the goals you outline for your team should always remain within reach. It’s obviously every call center manager’s dream to see performance transformed overnight, but that’s just not reasonable. Employees are people, which means they will need to practice and perfect their rapport building techniques just like anyone else. Liken it to developing personal social skills. Only in this context, the interactions they’re having represent a company’s reputation.

Your goal should be to set goals that are encouraging without being demoralizing. We recommend using the SMART approach:

Specific – Set goals that are specific and easy to understand.

Measurable – It should be measurable in some way, so you can track progress. It could be a percentage of successful rapport-building activities each day or week.

Attainable – Make sure the goal is something that can be achieved. It doesn’t need to be a stretch, but it should require employees to show initiative and dedication.

Relevant – Ensure your goals are relevant to the job at hand.

Time-Bound – With a time-bound goal, you set yourself up for success by putting a deadline on it. This helps build urgency and encourages employees to stay focused on achieving end results.

7. Turn Words Into Action

The goals established in step six may be put into action in a number of ways. For example, a team leader may want to set aside time for employees to practice their interactions with customers or other stakeholders. This could be done through role-play, video recordings, or even observational practices. Other methods may include workshops on how to effectively communicate with others, or seminars on how to build rapport with customers. Whatever the methods chosen, it’s important that these activities are organized in a way that allows employees to gain feedback and be held accountable for their progress.

8. Remain Committed

Team transformation is very similar to personal transformation in that it takes time to fully develop and manifest. It’s imperative that those in leadership positions remain committed to the process, even when the results may not be seen immediately. This commitment will demonstrate to employees that the organization is serious about rapport-building and incline them to recognize its importance themselves.

How Ozonetel’s Call Center Solution Helps You Build Rapport with Customers

Cloud Call center software is an invaluable tool for those seeking to establish rapport with their customers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) technologies can automate customer interactions, reduce wait times, and enable agents to more effectively engage with customers.

Fastest Deployment: Ozonetel offers the industry’s quickest deployment. As industry leaders, we ensure rapid setup, and if external dependencies are absent, your contact center can be operational within just 24 hours.

Better Scalability: With our instant cloud setup and per agent pricing, you can reduce fixed costs and get the flexibility to scale up and down with ease.

Seamless Integration: Ozonetel integrates effortlessly with various business applications, offering single sign-on (SSO), click-to-call from CRM, automated call logging, and data sharing across the customer journey.

Comprehensive Support: Ozonetel is committed to aiding growing businesses, offering 24/7 live phone support, free onboarding, and thorough training to ensure a smooth transition.

Interoperable: Our open API architecture seamlessly integrates with a wide array of business tools, including custom CRM and ticketing solutions.

Truly omnichannel: Omnichannel Tools: Ozonetel helps agents handle voice, chat, WhatsApp, SMS, email, and social media from a single unified dashboard. So, you can scale up and serve customers faster with intelligent chat & voice bots.

Intuitive & simple: Spend less time training staff. Our interface is easy-to-use, adaptive, and highly customizable, making it a breeze for your team to get started and excel.

Call Monitoring: With Ozonetel, you can generate 100 reports based on real-time and historical monitoring of agents, empowering you to track and enhance performance.You can easily track call queues, customer sentiment, and agent efficiency across multiple inbound and outbound campaigns.

Founded in 2007, Ozonetel is a pioneering provider of cloud-based contact center solutions. Our innovative tools can help you identify your customers quickly, capture their data accurately, and provide them with a seamless experience from start to finish. Let us show you how to build rapport with clients by reaching out today.

Want to see what Ozonetel can do for your company? Sign up today for a free 21-day trial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Active Listening: Pay close attention to the other person’s words, emotions, and body language.

Empathy: Understand and share the feelings of others to connect on an emotional level.

Consistency: Be reliable and true to your word to build trust.

Shared experience: This involves creating a climate of trust and understanding with customers.

The 3C’s of rapport-based communication are connection, commonality, and clues. Connecting is the skill of getting on the same wavelength as the person you are communicating with. Commonality involves finding common ground, fostering a sense of familiarity and connection. Consistency requires a business representative or agent to maintain consistent interactions to strengthen rapport over time.

Here are the four steps to building rapport:

  • Establish Common Ground: Find shared interests or experiences.
  • Active Listening: Show genuine interest in what the other person says.
  • Non-Verbal Cues: Pay attention to body language and mirror it subtly.
  • Empathize: Understand and validate the other person’s feelings and perspectives.

A good rapport technique is to lead with empathy and respect. One effective technique is to ask open-ended questions that encourage the other person to share more about themselves, promoting conversation and connection.

There are different types of rapport-building techniques that can be used in various settings.

Personal Rapport: Building connections based on shared interests and emotions.

Professional Rapport: Creating trust and understanding in a workplace setting.

Customer Rapport: Establishing a strong relationship with clients for business success.

Online Rapport: Building connections through digital channels and social media.

Prashanth Kancherla

Chief Product Officer, Ozonetel Communications

Over the past decade, Prashanth has worked with 3000+ customer experience and contact center leaders...

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