Tag Archives: priming

Potential Experiment: Priming Phone Agents with Nonstandard Spelling Alphabets?

When calling airlines to make or change award bookings, you usually need to tell a phone agent a confirmation number. And it’s often necessary to use some sort of spelling alphabet (e.g. “A” as in “alpha”) to communicate the letters of the confirmation number to the phone agent as it’s very easy to confuse letters like “M” for “N” over the phone.

While I’m sure that many mileage junkies like to use the NATO phonetic alphabet, I wonder if there’s a better spelling alphabet to use. Like instead of using something boring like “hotel” for “H”, what if we attempted to prime the phone agent with our word choice?

Priming is an attempt to influence later responses using a prior exposure to a stimulus. So if we wanted to try to make the phone agent more helpful and willing to do what we ask, we could try using spellings such as “A” as in “agreeable” and “H” as in “helpful”.

Here’s an example spelling alphabet to use:
A = agreeable
B = benevolent
C = cooperate
D = delightful
E = enjoyable
F = friendly
G = gratifying
H = helpful
I = ideal
J = jolly
K = kind
L = lovely
M = merry
N = nice
O = open
P = productive
Q = quaint
R = responsive
S = supportive
T = terrific
U = useful
V = viable
W = welcoming
X = ???
Y = yielding
Z = zest?

The golden rule for dealing with phone agents is always hang up and call again if you get an answer that you don’t like, but perhaps with priming you can tilt the odds a little more in your favor. Has anyone tried anything like this before?