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Make 'em Laugh Customer Service

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"It was almost like a game," said Amtrak ticket clerk Shawn. "I'd single out individuals I thought I could sell business class to over coach. They'd ask what the difference was and I'd tell them. You get more room, you get early boarding, you get a $3.00 coupon for the Bistro Car, AND more importantly, you get our respect. I acted really deadpan sincere when I said respect. They always laughed."

Shawn was using humor to provide customer service, "I could have simply ignored selling the higher-priced tickets, but I got a kick out of seeing the customers laugh. I don't recall anyone not buying the upgrade after I gave my little sales pitch."

Shawn was selective. He didn't try up-selling on everyone. "The people I asked were people who I thought would have a use for Business Class travel," Shawn revealed. He probably had a knack for recognizing people that had a good sense of humor as well.

Humor and laughter are great aspects of customer service. When people are laughing they're having a good time. If people equate fun with your service, that's fantastic.

Reggie Wilson drives a bus for Seattle Transit. It could be a thankless job filled with stress, time pressures and difficult customers. So, why does he love it? And, why would busy people actually wait for him to serve them? Because Reggie makes his customers smile!

Reggie's bus becomes his stage as he performs for his customers. He uses a combination of bad jokes, childish songs, and a sign that says, "Smile!" Reggie says, "There are days I don't feel like smiling or putting up the smile sign, but I have to make a choice about where I want to be with my attitude." It works for him and it works for the people that make a point of riding his bus.

SunShower Learning produced a customer service training video called Smile! The training video highlights how Reggie uses humor to deliver great customer service.

"SMILE! Shows how positive attitudes can be the primary factor in every customer service interaction - for the sake of the customer AND, most importantly, for your own quality of life."

- Ad copy on the jacket of the Smile! Customer Service Training Video

The video has some great shots of people riding the bus, Reggie greeting them, and everyone laughing and having a good time.

"Buzzy" is another person who knows about humor. His employer started issuing name tags to their employees, Buzzy decided to choose a nickname, rather than his own. "I figured, who could ever get mad at someone named Buzzy," he smiled. "People almost always ask about my name. They ask if that's my real name. I tell them no, my real name is Sparky."

Does humor always work? No, nothing works 100%, but it's good to have the odds in your favor and humor helps those odds. Buzzy says, "I once had a customer come back the day after a customer service incident. He came up to me and apologized. I was shocked. I had never seen that happen before. I doubt if he would have done it if my name were Michael, or Tom. I had leveled with him the day before and kept my cool." People just expect to like Buzzy and they do. Would Buzzy lie?

Being in a good humor and staying in a good humor is part of the job of customer service. We want people to enjoy their experiences with us. When things go right, it's outstanding. When things go wrong, good humor and attitude can get us over the rough spots.

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