A MAGIC® Best Practice: Uncover the Catchpoint

By Sanford Wilder

The Initial Call

  • "This is Mr. Smith. I want to close all of my accounts."
Sound a little too familiar? Customers often call because they're dissatisfied with some aspect of our product, service or business practices. However, a complaining customer doesn't have to be a lost cause. Once we know what the customer's true issue is we can move to resolve the problem and turn the situation around.

Customers often initially keep their real issues hidden from us when they call. For example, as in the call above, a customer might call a bank saying that he wants to close his accounts and switch banks.

Presenting Issue

The presenting issue is the customer's stated problem. The presenting issue in this scenario is obvious. Given that the customer asked to have his accounts closed, it may seem logical for the service representative to execute the customer's wishes. Of course, it is to the bank's advantage to retain the customer and, in the course of doing so, turn his impression of the bank around.

The question becomes, "What exactly can the service representative do to make the best out of this situation?"

Concept of a Catchpoint

A catchpoint is the core issue a customer has that, if uncovered, can lead to rich and fruitful discussions of her real wants, needs, and potential solutions.

The service representative's goals for dealing with a hidden catchpoint are to glean:
  1. What is the issue?
  2. Why is it significant to the customer?
  3. How is the customer feeling?

Action 1: Ask permission to gain more information

Your first step in uncovering the catchpoint is to ask permission to gain more information. This will put the caller at ease, show that you care, and enable you to take control of the interaction in a professional way.

  • Service Rep: Mr. Smith, in order to help you, I need a little more information. May I ask you a few questions? (Pause for response)

Action 2: Rephrase and ask open-ended questions

Once you get a positive response, and you often do, your second step in uncovering the catchpoint is to ask questions. By asking clarifying questions, and paraphrasing what you hear, you can usually get to the heart of an issue.


  • Service Rep: Thank you, Mr. Smith. Will you please let me know a little more about your specific situation?
  • Mr. Smith: The last few contacts I have had with your bank make me wonder about how secure my money is.
  • Service Rep: Oh! It sounds like you're concerned about the funds you have entrusted to us. Please tell me more, so that I can better understand what caused this concern.
  • Mr. Smith: Sure, I left two important messages for the individual who is supposed to be handling my accounts and he still has not called me back. I wanted to move some money into an existing trust for my grandchild, and it is a very time-sensitive issue. It must happen before year-end or I miss my window! I also asked to be sent a status on my account activity and I have not received that either. And that was three weeks ago!

Action 3: Confirm understanding

So the real issue is not that he wants his accounts closed, it is that the lack of timely service from the bank is causing him to feel that the bank does not handle details well. It may have also caused him to feel that he is anonymous to the bank and that no one is watching his money.

Now that you believe you have uncovered the catchpoint, confirm your understanding by rephrasing:
  • What the issue is,
  • Why it is significant, and
  • How he is feeling.


  • Service Rep: I understand how that can be frustrating, Mr. Smith. You have some very important and urgent business to take care of. You want to transfer funds into a trust for your grandchild. You have called to tell us about it, and you haven't received the help you need to move forward.
  • Mr. Smith: You got that right.
  • Service Rep: You also requested documents to learn how your accounts were doing, and you still have not received them. I can see why you are so concerned and appreciate your sharing this with me today, Mr. Smith.

Action 4: Propose a solution

Now that you have confirmed your understanding, propose a solution.
  • Service Rep: I can help you with both of these issues right now, if that would be all right.
  • Mr. Smith: What can you do?
  • Service Rep: Let's begin with the trust fund transfer. If I can get a little more information I can see what we need to do to transfer those funds today. First off, do you happen to have your account number available?...

Once that was resolved to the satisfaction of Mr. Smith, the Service Representative could then move to the second issue to immediately provide the information needed. In both issues the rep could also suggest longer-term solutions so this will not happen again.

Through listening for the Catchpoint, you can restore the relationship, resolve the problem, and build or rebuild a sense of trust and loyalty with your customers.

We received a letter from a MAGIC client - one of the largest banks in the world. This individual said that she witnessed a Service Representative working with a customer and using this MAGIC Best Practice. At the beginning of the call, the customer was ready to take all of his money out of the bank. At the close of the conversation, he decided to leave it with the bank - all $62M.
Before and After
Before and After
Just one "tragic" contact can influence your customers' perception of your company (and their buying decisions). Listen to the difference MAGIC® can make.