Reframe Technique

How to tell a customer they’re WRONG and you’re RIGHT whilst maintaining rapport

It’s really tough when you need to have a difficult conversation with a customer or colleague, whether that’s face to face (virtually via Skype or Zoom) or in person or whether that’s on the ‘phone, especially if that difficult conversation involves you telling that customer or colleague that they’re WRONG!

So this week, I’m going to share a little FIT tip with you called the Reframe Technique, that enables you to disagree with someone, that is, tell them they’re wrong and you’re right, without getting into a slanging match or making them lose face and most importantly, a way for you to keep rapport intact during this difficult conversation you need to have, where you’re going to tell someone they’re wrong!

Here’s how it works; You find something to AGREE on FIRST, and then you DISAGREE – and use of these 2 words in your response are very important.

Let me give you a real life example: So we have a client – a leading motor finance organisation with a fantastic customer service team who do a sterling job day in and day out (they’re definitely the purple cow in their field), especially at the start of each month when they tend to get inundated (as does every motor finance company by the way) because this ‘problem’ is experienced by every customer who has car finance, whose agreement is coming to an end, where the final direct debit payment has an additional fee attached to it called an Option To Purchase fee. It’s a formal, legal, official payment that every car finance provider will load onto the final DD payment in order to transfer ownership of the vehicle over to the customer and release all rights on the car from themselves, for the customer to become the rightful owner of the vehicle

Calls from customers in this situation, at round about the 1st of the month when their final car finance payment becomes due, tend to be fairly highly charged in as far as the customer doesn’t understand why the company has taken out sometimes as much as double the direct debit fee, and feel they’ve been wrongly charged and in the worse case scenarios, will be extremely angry and upset about the fact that, in their eyes at least, you’ve stolen money from their account without justifiable cause!

Now the customer is clearly wrong to suggest anything of the sort! This Option to Purchase fee is very clearly explained in the formal agreement & terms & conditions which obviously the customer signs at the beginning of their 3 or 4 year finance plan with the finance provider.

It would be all too easy, especially if you’ve got a customer going off on one down the phone to you, huffing and puffing about your underhand dealings regarding their direct debit payments and accusing you of shoddy practice, to defend your corner and perhaps take an upper hand tone, ‘monosyllabically’ pointing out that this Option To Purchase fee is very clearly explained in the agreement which they signed and therefore agreed to however many years ago.

But we all known what happens when we add fuel to an already burning fire right? So the purple cows in this particular field, like my awesome client, take a whole different tack with these situations where the customer thinks they’re right and they need to tell them they’re not, while maintaining rapport and empathy and trust with their customer.

The Reframe Technique enables you to do exactly this.

You find something they’ve said to agree on first, then tell them what you disagree with them about and most importantly, you bring on the evidence / the proof as to WHY you disagree with them and why they’re wrong & you’re right, without needing to actually say those words & wind them up still further!

So, in my car finance provider scenario…you might use the Reframe technique like this…

“I agree Mrs Cross, the Option to Purchase Fee is a strange term because of course, you’ve been purchasing your car for the last 3 years and there isn’t an option with this final fee – it does need to be paid in order for the car to be transferred in ownership to you and for all rights to be released by us. I disagree however, that we didn’t make you aware of this fee or that we’re trying to steal money from your account because the Option to Purchase fee is detailed in the formal agreement you signed with us under section 4– and I’m very happy to email over a copy of that signed agreement if that would help Mrs Cross?”

See what you’ve done there?

The second they hear that you agree with them, psychologically you’ve relaxed them back in the chair, got them off their high horse and put them into a more settled frame of mind.

When you then tell them you disagree with them AND most importantly, you explain WHY you disagree, that is – they signed an agreement 3 years ago where there’s a section in the terms & conditions that clearly explains about the Option to Purchase fee – what it is and when it becomes payable AND you’re giving them the evidence by offering to email them a copy of that agreement, which they signed, then you enable them to save face and you keep rapport intact.

So, next time you need to tell a customer they’re WRONG and you’re RIGHT, use the Reframe Technique.

Remember: I agree…..I disagree – then bring on the evidence


Until next time, take care and keep FIT!

Hello... I'm Marie Cross

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