By Katie Griffiths

We all like to have a chuckle in the workplace, but is it ever OK to use jokes while dealing with a disgruntled consumer?

Making people laugh can diffuse a tense situation, and so it follows that there will be times when humour is an appropriate response to a complaint.

So how and when does laughter work?

For one thing, it shows a human side in a situation when the customer might view themselves as David going up against the big corporate Goliath.

Let’s look at what people expect from the customer service department of a company.

They want to reach them when needed, they want their query dealt with in the shortest time possible.

But there’s a third point – they want online customer service which actually speaks to them.

An automated response to negative comments, or a person who quotes company policy, makes the customer feel like the retailer is simply protecting its own interests.

Good humour as part of complaint management can show there is a ‘real’ person behind the emails/tweets/letters being exchanged – not a robot.

And as long as the jokes are not personal to the customer – who will view himself as the ‘injured’ party – then it is possible to turn an unhappy shopper into a loyal follower of your brand who feels a personal connection.

As for when to use humour to counter the negative effects of social media, a common sense approach applies.

Obviously, a customer in a great deal of distress is unlikely to see the funny side. So consider how much inconvenience has been caused before you start cracking jokes.

Also consider the initial contact you’ve had with the consumer. Do they seem open to a light-hearted approach? Let their tone prompt your response.

If you judge the customer as being open to humour – but their reaction to a joke proves otherwise – then move on. Keep your answers friendly but deal with the person in a professional manner.

But if you think it’s worth a try, go for it.

One great example of humour at its best is Tesco’s reaction to a very creative complaint by one of its consumers who was craving a tasty ice-cream.

Dav Nash made it obvious he was open to humour by the very manner of his approach. So Tesco responded in the same vein.

Not only does a sense of fun diffuse the anger of the complaining customer – but it has the added bonus of gaining online attention, including ‘likes’ and shares which will improve the brand’s reputation.

In another great example, an Amazon customer complaints advisor took the step of assuming the role of Thor, Norse God of Thunder, in dealing with a customer, to make the transaction fun.

Maybe the customer’s online name of “Uranus Explorer” gave the staff member a clue as to the humour and hobbies of the person they were dealing with.

But the whole experience led to the consumer sharing the conversation and the whole thing trending on various social media – an enormous win for Amazon.

Customer service is not always an easy job, and dealing with complaints can often be a difficult and thankless task.

But never miss out on an opportunity to promote your brand and put forward a human side to the company by making the customer laugh.


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