One airline (that shall remain nameless) told us recently that they “caught” some of their best reps using similar techniques to avoid dust-ups with customers over canceled flights.
For instance, imagine your 11:00 AM flight is canceled and you need to be in Cleveland tomorrow morning. There’s an evening flight that’s open. Where most reps would simply say “I can put you on a flight leaving at 9:00pm” other reps, knowing full well the 9:00 PM flight was available but seeking to manipulate the customer’s reaction, might say “well, I know I can put you on the 7:00 AM flight tomorrow, but let me see what I can do to put you on the earlier flight, which is at 9:00 PM tonight.” This technique of experience engineering is more commonly called anchoring. A less-desirable option creates a mental anchor, making the best alternative seem more acceptable. Rather than be irritated that the 11:00 AM was canceled, you’d probably be pleased that the rep has secured a seat for you on the evening flight.
Another way to think about this tactic is from a framing position. The customer service representative has shifted your reference point from 11 a.m. today to 7 a.m. tomorrow. From the first vantage point, 9 p.m. is a loss; from the second vantage point, it’s a gain.
From HBR article, “How Call Centers Use Behavioral Economics to Sway Customers.” Hat tip: Martin Bishop.