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Building Rapport Over the Phone

Instructor: Allison Tanner

Allison has a Masters of Arts in Political Science. She has worked in the customer service and food industry since 2013.

The lesson identifies the difficulty of building rapport over the phone. It then describes what strategies someone can use in order to quickly build rapport with a caller.

Building Rapport

Lisa, the supervisor of a call center, has recognized Mary as a superstar call-center representative. Lisa tells the team that Mary has mastered the skill of building rapport over the phone. Rapport is a friendly relationship where individuals and people can connect with one another and understand each others' feelings. Building rapport is the process of establishing a friendly relationship in which the parties feel connected and believe that their feelings have been understood.

In order to build rapport, you need to do a few key things:

  • Find common ground, or the area where you can relate
  • Be able to indicate trust and understanding of the situation
  • Ensure that you listen actively and show that you are hearing what the person is saying
  • Indicate empathy, which is the ability to understand and acknowledge the person's feelings

Lisa goes on to tell the team that building rapport over the phone is challenging because you can't see the body language, or physical signs of feeling and emotion, which help people to connect with one another.

Rapport Over the Phone

Lisa goes on to say that building rapport over the phone means that you have to find a way to connect to the person on the other end of the line. Some tricks to building rapport over the phone include:

  • Managing your tone of voice or how you are speaking to the caller
  • Responding to the words the person has used
  • Acknowledging and identifying the feelings of the caller
  • Reassuring them that you will do all you can to help them, or at least reduce the impact of a negative experience


Directing the team to the TV screen, Lisa explains that they will watch Mary go through a call and then they will identify how she builds rapport.

As the video starts, Mary reaches for her phone with a big smile and welcomes the caller, ''Thank you for calling TY Services. My name is Mary. Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with today?''

Once the caller has finished rapidly and angrily introducing himself as Jake, a caller demanding to speak to the person in charge, Mary responds: ''Jake, it is a pleasure to speak with you. I can tell you are frustrated. I just need a little bit more information. What can I help you with today?''

As Jake furiously explains his late package and missing items, Mary actively listens and gives subtle ''hmms'' and ''ahs'' every now and again. After he has finished, Mary responds: ''I can see why you are so frustrated. I once received a package with no items in it at all. It is extremely frustrating. Let me assure you that I will do all that I can to help you and get this corrected. May I get _____ information in order to identify what items were missing from your order?''

Jake, now calm, gives Mary the information, and the rest of the conversation goes smoothly. Mary can now help Jake get the items he needs, as well as a refund for his frustration.

The clip ends, and Lisa asks the team to ''identify the ways in which Mary used the tools or tricks to build rapport over the phone.''

Together they respond that Mary:

  • Uses a friendly and kind tone of voice
  • Actively listens using ''hmms'' and ''ahs'' to indicate she is attentive
  • Connected to the emotion and experience
  • Mirrors or uses similar language as Jake
  • Acknowledges the feeling and identifies frustration
  • Reassures Jake that she will do all she can to help him

Additionally, everyone notices that Mary smiles, and they all agree that this likely helped her to maintain a friendly tone even when Jake was rude.

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