Not everyone is a comedy genius, and it can be risky to try and bank on humor to keep a customer on your side. However, online customer services and other outward facing customer relations units can, in certain cases, use a light touch to defuse frustration and leave consumers with a better appreciation of the company.
For example, The Globe and Mail recently covered the story of Canadian Andrew Gardner, who kept receiving mis-addressed mail from Shoppers Drug Mart and sent them an email asking to be removed from its mailing list. His email used humorous language and jokingly proposed that the letters he was getting were intended for "a future resident of this address" and that the mail was getting there too early.
In response, the representative took the joke one step further by sending an elaborate response that told the story of a growing future zombie apocalypse and included references to a fictional miracle cure called Everexis, as well as such other survival staples like "Wheat, glorious wheat."
Though the company was at first hesitant about this response message, as it seemed to go against the grain, they eventually condoned the representative who contacted Gardner. This seems to have been based on Gardener's reaction to the email, which was unabashedly positive.
"I was taken aback, because it's genuinely funny," he told the Globe and Mail. "I've been telling everybody, it's the best customer service I've ever gotten," he said.
While this is not an approach that will be usable for everyone, employees in online customer services can take note of the attitudes exhibited by the customer and consider responding accordingly. Done right, this can be one way an answering service might make an honest connection.