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Laughing all the way: The cure for the customer complaint

Office characters using humor to de-escalate a complaint

‘Tis the season for high tensions, customer complaints and gift returns at a rapid rate.  Nothing says holly and jolly like disgruntled customers during the holiday season.  Santa might have been the one that did them wrong; but somehow you get stuck with the brunt of the blame.

Who needs Scrooge when you can find all of his cousins constantly phoning or trolling your customer service team? The anger and resentment over a lost package can really weigh on an individual screening the calls or scanning the social media postings – especially when the complaints are multiplied by the hundreds.   A different approach might be in order.

This holiday season might be a great opportunity to call in the clowns.  No, not Krusty – or the Ringling Brothers posse – but your current employees, and their senses of humor.  Channeling the old funny bone to cut the tension might just be this year’s secret weapon.

Be sparingly spontaneous

Responding to customer complaints can feel robotic.  While it is a very necessary aspect of retention and satisfactions, sometimes you can feel like you are on a hamster wheel with the no end in sight.  This year, it’s time for the joke to be on you – no, really.  Give them a small reason to giggle.

What better way to put your personality on display than inserting a good old fashioned one-liner?  More than likely the customer has been sitting on hold for a while and is already anticipating the need to fire back, so why not grant them an element of surprise?  Who knows – it could totally turn their frown upside down, and not seem like you are trying too hard.

Keep the puns intended

This time around, make sure you have a little pun, too.  What’s great about this kind of humor is that it is a non-aggressive form, and 9 times out of 10, it’s very harmless.  In a heated situation, these guys have a sneaky way of making even the worst of issues feel a little less daunting.  They are so corny – you have to laugh.

Let’s say they don’t like the way their purchase was gift wrapped and you find them in your line.  After an appropriate apology, introduce the new employee (sporting sunglasses, an iced-out chain necklace and a roll of wrapping paper) assigned to fixing it as your resident “Gangster Wrapper.”  Even if they roll their eyes, you have already diffused the situation and both parties can move on with their lives with a little less strain.

Roast more than the chestnuts

In-store and phone conversations aren’t the only place these grumbles will surface.  Social media is rapidly becoming the frontrunner for customers to air their grievances.  In fact, according to SproutSocial, 46 percent of customers have used social to “call out” brands.

Sometimes, the best way to combat these complaints is to dish it back (carefully, of course).  Wendy’s social media team is a great example of how to establish a large following by roasting both other restaurants and even their customers.   They have vocalized their beef against competitor fast food chains such as Hardee’s and McDonald’s in a trade of clever insults on Twitter.

Long story, short: funny is fun – not just for you, but for the customers, too.  While it might not ease every situation, if done appropriately, it can humanize your company and de-escalate the situation while scoring a few laughs along the way.

MultiView Team Expert Julie Bernhard

Julie Bernhard

News Briefs Executive Editor

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