Building Rapport : The Cheat Sheet

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Rapport = People like people who are similar to them.

Rapport means showing friendliness, warmth and common ground and interest. Avoid the Tumbleweed. This is when the customer makes a joke or a little comment and it is ignored. There is usually an awkward, brief silence before the call moves on. Listening to it back you can almost feel that cold wind and see the tumbleweed rolling by as a sinister bell chimes in the background. Horrible! If the customer offers the branch of rapport then we must take it! OK, so we don’t want to get side-tracked for an hour talking about unrelated topics but a few seconds spent in building and maintaining rapport helps to keep the call flowing nicely and gives both us and the caller and more positive experience.

The easiest way to keep control of the call AND build rapport is to acknowledge what was said with a sincere, stock phrase, something that shows you are similar: ‘Oh I know, that happens to me all the time!’ or ‘Oh I do that too!’(Or if you don’t then mention that your partner, mum, dad or someone else does) and then a little chuckle before ‘So Mrs Smith, you mentioned before that you are travelling on the 25th….’ it is easier to keep a call on track if you only spend a brief time off topic. The challenge happens when you have been indulging the caller for ten minutes and then think about bringing it back. This can be a bit too late and can sound awkward and feel embarrassing. ‘Little and often’ work best when it comes to making an effort with rapport rather than one, lengthy attempt.

This table shows typical opportunities to avoid the ‘tumbleweed’ and build rapport with example phrases.

Customer Tells You


Genuine Rapport

They have suffered a bereavement


I’m sorry.

I’m really sorry to hear that.

I’m so sorry for your loss.

I’m sorry, let’s see what we can do to make this as quick and easy as possible for you.

They like golf/fishing/morris dancing/

train spotting or some other hobby

you can’t relate to





[Relate to the weather –is it good or bad at the moment for

the hobby?]

How long have you been doing that for?

Where do you play/fish/dance etc?

Me/my dad/brother/sister/friend plays/does that too!

They stress that you mustn’t send details

about the service/product/booking to their home,

implying an illicit event.



Please rest assured we won’t post anything through your

door. [check your systems meet your promises!]

Is your email account secure?

I’m having a divorce party


Good for you!


More and more people are having those these days!

Great! It’s worth celebrating when you’ve got out alive!

Information about their weekend/holiday/family etc.



Oh wow, that sounds really lovely.

It’s nice to have something to look forward to isn’t it.

Brilliant, do you know we have (xyz related product/service) that might be good for that….

I’ve been there! It’s beautiful at this/that time of year.

I’ve always wanted to go there! You will have a great time.

That is great news! Enjoy yourself.

How lovely, it always makes my day to hear good news.

They don’t have the information to hand that you need.

 Huffing. Sighing.


Ok, well not to worry, I know how busy life can be. Let me try to access your information another way.  Do you have your postcode please?


OK, let me see what I can do for you today.


[at the end of the call try to encourage the behaviour you want…’I’m glad we were able to get around the account number situation, shall I email it to you so you can use it next time and make things even quicker?’]


Carolyn Blunt is renowned for identifying opportunities to improve customer experience and sales whilst creating efficiencies. Advocate clients include Bupa, Boots, Autoglass, IKEA, Halfords, Three and Co-op Insurance to name just a few.


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