How to Establish Rapport with Callers in 6 Seconds Flat


Female customer service representative using headset and laughing

I just got off the phone with a call center agent who is in fear of losing her job because her supervisor says her tone, attitude and approach with customers is unacceptable. she has exactly 90 days to improve — or she will be fired.

She said she found my blog when she googled how to improve your customer service skills. I wished I could be there sitting across from this young woman, who I imagine is in her early 20s, and coach her. But she’s in Los Angeles and I have a plane to catch this afternoon, heading to the east coast.

I did coach this young customer service representative, over the phone, on how to soften her approach by making sure she doesn’t over-talk customers, by using what I call a “lead-in” and by listening with the intent to understand.

We talked for nearly an hour and then I gave her a complimentary enrollment in my online learning suite. She touched me with her proactive spirit and now I am determined to help her.

After coaching this young lady, I thought it might be helpful to share with you 4 of the tips I shared with her today. Maybe these tips can help your own employees deliver a better customer experience over the telephone.

1. Use a “lead-in.” Lead in to the call with an offer to assist and using personal pronouns like this.

“Good morning. Customer Care. This is Penny. How may I help you today?” (with a🙂in your voice)

  • The offer to assist is, “How may I help you today?”
  • The personal pronouns used here are “I” and “you.”

Personal pronouns personalize communication and make you sound friendly and warm.

Here’s a 4-minute video on the lead-in that I recorded right here in my office.


2. Talk with energy and enthusiasm (again, w/a smile in your voice). Intentionally put energy in your voice and work to sound as friendly as you can. To get in the best frame of mind for opening calls, think of how you’d act and speak if you were opening your front door to greet guests to a party in your home. You’d be happy, friendly, energetic, genuine and warm. This energy would be present from the first ring of the doorbell to the last. Be a great “host” on your phone calls and you’ll nail every call.

3. Listen without interrupting. Try not to interrupt callers within the first 6 seconds. Even if you know right away that you’ll need to transfer the call, let the caller finish his or her thought. Interruptions come across as rude or cold, even if the interruption is a necessary transfer. After letting the customer complete their thought, politely explain the next steps.

4. Use gentle/soft “ahs” and “ums” to let the caller know you are listening. Convey to your caller that you are fully present and interested by interjecting warm verbal cues. So often, customer service reps listen to customers silently and that can make the customer feel that the rep isn’t listening. Go above and beyond with warm ahs and ums.

Now you can give your employees even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience. Sign up for my newsletter, if you don’t get it already – and learn specific tips, approaches and phrases to help your employees deliver a delightful and friendly customer experience.