From United: Broken Culture, by Jean-Louis Gassée, writing on his time as the head of Apple France:
Over time, a customer service theorem emerged. When a customer brings a complaint, there are two tokens on the table: It’s Nothing and It’s Awful. Both tokens are always played, so whoever chooses first forces the other to grab the token that’s left. For example: Customer claims something’s wrong. I try to play down the damage: It’s Probably Nothing…are you sure you know what you’re doing? Customer, enraged at my lack of judgment and empathy, ups the ante: How are you boors still in business??
But if I take the other token first and commiserate with Customer’s complaint: This Is Awful! How could we have done something like this? Dear Customer is left with no choice, compelled to say Oh, it isn’t so bad…certainly not the end of the world..
It’s simple, it works…even in marriages, I’m told.
There’s no downside to taking the It’s Awful position. If, on further and calm investigation, the customer is revealed to be seriously wrong, you can always move to the playbook’s Upon Further Review page.