Reframing To Common Goals is a verbal self-defense technique designed to help you get control of the interaction PLUS build rapport.
Tactic 31: Reframing To Common Goals
In any situation where two people disagree and the conversation takes a turn for the worse, a shift of focus occurs in terms how they see each other, and their goals. For example, let’s consider the case where a customer wants to return an item after the time period allowed for returns, and in a condition such that the item cannot be resold. The customer’s goal? It’s simple. She wants her money back so she can spend it on something else, or at another establishment. The company, however, has a goal of limiting losses.
In a conversation that escalates into hostility, what happens isthat each “side” believes the other’s goal is unfair, or otherwise inappropriate. Worse, the perception is that there are two mutually exclusive goals, and that erodes trust.
The customer believes that the company is trying to take advantage of her, or develops some other negative goal regarding the intent of the company, and the employee. On the flip side, the employee may come to believe the customer is trying to pull a fast one.
Once these beliefs or perceptions are in place, it’s almost impossible to find some way out of the argument, because trust is gone, and the two parties are, indeed, on different sides.
You’d think that this is a situation where the whole conversation is a lost cause, but thankfully that’s not the case. The key is to alter the way the customer perceives the company’s goals, or your goals as a representative of the company.
In order to understand this, you need to understand that at any time, and in any situation involving people, there are a number of goals operative at any one time. People don’t act in the service of one single over-riding goal or purpose, even if they believe they are doing so. We’re much more complicated than that. We act on multiple goals and desires, and many of these are unconscious or in a “place” in our heads we don’t access.
In situations where trust breaks down as a result of perceived incompatible goals, the key is to find other goals in the situations that both parties share, focus attention on them, and work from THAT common ground.
Let’s consider the return of merchandise example, which appears to have two incompatible goals.
It’s a safe bet that amongst the customer’s goals are:
♦ Happiness with the purchase
♦ Getting a good deal
♦ Feeling like they are not being taken advantage of
These are pretty much universal. Who doesn’t want these things?
What about the company? What about the customer service employee? Can we state goals that are important to the company/employee that are compatible with and/or shared with the customer? We can. On the company side, here’s a few. The company wants
♦ Customers and that specific customer to be happy with their purchase so they’ll return.
♦ Customers to feel they are getting a good deal.
♦ Customers to trust the company to not take advantage of customers.
At this point you should be seeing that even though there is some disagreement about the details of what constitutes a best path to achieving the goals of the parties, there are common goals operating here.
Why then is the conversation deteriorating? Because the mutual and complementary goals have been forgotten, often
due to the heightened emotions of the moment. The solution is to focus the customer on these commonalities, so that the customer can re-establish some sense of mutuality, and of being on the same side even though there is disagreement about the details.
Once you establish that, you create a foundation for resolution, and a way for the customer to lower the emotional intensity involved in the situation.
That brings us to the idea of reframing, and refocusing. Reframing refers to a process where you encourage the other person to see the situation differently and in a more positive light. This process isn’t about conning someone, or manipulating someone to accept a lie. It’s also not about trying to put a positive spin on the situation. It is about acknowledging there are other ways to look at things, and to acknowledging the truth — that there is common ground. There almost always is at some level.
More instructions (and example dialogues) on exactly how to use reframing to common goals with customers, and to help build trust and rappor can be found on pages 79-82 of If It Wasn't For The Customers I'd Really Like This Job: Stop Angry, Hostile Customers COLD While Remaining Professional, Stress Free, Efficient and Cool As A Cucumber.