Tuesday, September 4, 2007

You Can’t Be Serious….

When you’ve got a frustrated customer in your midst, you may feel the urge to duck and cover, pass her off to another employee or placate her with standard company-approved responses.

Maybe she just needs to lighten up a little.

Effectively using humor to bring down a customer’s guard can help repair a relationship that, if lost, would take future sales from your doors. Just be careful that your methods are designed to put the customer at ease and give her the recognition she is asking for.

Consider this exchange:

Anne walked through the door of her favorite retail store with a non-functioning digital camera card and a bad attitude. Her work week had already been interrupted by two doctor’s appointments, one dinner meeting and a shortened deadline; she needed her digital camera to be fully operational for a weekend filled with sports activities and a company-sponsored picnic. Simply put, she had neither the time nor the patience for one more frustration.

She made a beeline for the service counter and greeted the manager with a tight-lipped smile. Placing the card on the counter, she said, “I just bought this card, and it’s not working. I’m here on my lunch hour, and I’m not happy about it.”

The manager looked at her, looked down at the card and said, “You know, I keep telling our employees to stop jumping on these cards before putting them out for sale, but they just don’t listen.”

Anne’s stern features softened and she cracked a smile. The manager continued, “Seriously, I’m sorry you’ve had to spend your lunch hour here. Our food is lousy. Trust me; you don’t want to eat in the break room.” He picked up the card and added, “Let’s see about getting this taken care of quickly for you.”

The manager in this story used humor but did it in a way that demonstrated that he recognized her frustration. He didn’t blame her, tease her or use humor in a cutting way; he used it as a method of getting her guard down so she would be receptive to his offering.

Think of humor as an olive branch you extend to a disgruntled customer. By acknowledging concerns and even being a bit self-deprecating, you can save a souring relationship and keep a loyal customer in your fold.

Just don’t greet her with a knock-knock joke. You’ll lose her for sure.

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