Little Things That Add Humor

On Friday, I talked about Noah Kagan’s suggestions for a company’s customer service department. A common theme among his suggestions involved humor.

His humor related suggestions were:

– Play jokes instead of mundane hold music.
– Make the “Your call may be recorded” message humorous (We are going to record your call and if you have a great voice we will listen to it every night to put us to sleep.)

I’ve heard about little things like that throughout companies. I read about a company that was sick of endless phone systems. So, they added something like push 5 to hear the lion roar, push 6 to hear the noise in the lunch room, etc. to their phone system. Again, a pretty small thing with the sole purpose of making fun of existing standards.

I’ve already posted my thoughts about how I feel that humor is sometimes uncalled for. In some experiences and situations, it can be pulled off (like the ones listed above, most likely). In others, it can’t. I don’t appreciate it during an in-person customer service interaction and there is a very fine line between funny and obnoxious.

I promise that I am not a cynical, humor hating person. I like jokes and I like comedy. I have favorite comedians and make fun of people and situations. However, I am not sure about humor in customer service situations. Here are my thoughts about whether or not it can be pulled off.

  • Depends on the company’s culture. Some companies have a very laid back, easy going culture. If your company’s culture reflects this, you have a better shot at getting away with humor.
  • Depends on the customer. You may have the most laid back team on the planet and be a very easy going company that loves humor, but if your customers don’t fit that profile as well, avoid humor.

If both our company and your customers have values that align with humor, it’ll probably work out. Make fun of yourselves, your industry, common practices within your industry, etc. as as much as you’d like.

Examples:

  • Microsoft. Microsoft’s enterprise software clients would likely not appreciate humor scattered throughout their contracts or multi-million dollar invoices. Microsoft is not a company people expect humor from.
  • FeedBurner. FeedBurner deals with bloggers. They make fun of themselves and seem to have a very laid back culture. FeedBurner has been very laid back since the beginning (as far as I know). Much more of a fit for humor.
  • Random Client. A client I am working with has a service that is targeted at a very professional group of people. I advised them to stay away from humor and keep things pretty professional. The company’s culture is laid back and fun loving enough, but their customers are not.

I never discourage companies having fun internally. They can make fun of each other as much as they’d like, play games, etc. I think that is great for team building and makes going to work fun. Microsoft probably does this. Google, which has a relatively conservative and professional exterior, does. However, I am not sure about humor to customers and during customer service.

Many companies have humor scattered throughout their product. They have little jokes in their copy, funny error messages, etc. Again, depending on the company and the average customer, these can be pulled off.

What are your thoughts about little doses of humor throughout customer service?

5 Responses to “Little Things That Add Humor”

  1. Pete Aldin said:

    Aug 26, 07 at 8:10 pm

    What a great post. I like your approach: it depends on the customer and on the corporation’s culture. Very good.

    But man, wouldn’t it be great to get Seinfeld, sound effects or Monty Python when on hold, rather than Desperado or the latest American Idol’s new CD? Then again, I am a blogger….

  2. Service Untitled said:

    Aug 27, 07 at 5:39 am

    Pete,

    It depends on the person and the company! I wouldn’t mind getting something funny, but wouldn’t like the American Idol CD. It varies a lot.

  3. Kevin said:

    Sep 01, 07 at 10:10 am

    Yeah this varies a lot but I’m sure we can find a balance. I thought it was funny that you mentioned your client’s company culture was laid back and fun loving enough, but their customers are not.

  4. Service Untitled » A Better Type of ISP - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Sep 05, 07 at 5:46 am

    […] I read this post about how an Irish ISP called Perlico has an interesting IVR. Much of like I described in my post on little things that add humor in customer service, when you call Perlico, you can push 3 to hear a duck quack. They realize that IVRs are often long, annoying, and boring, and are trying to poke fun at it. In an industry as boring as Internet service, my thoughts are more power to them. […]

  5. Funny Pictures said:

    Aug 13, 08 at 12:13 pm

    Thanks to the article, well thought out. I searched for a while to find the right answer to my questions!