Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Customer Service with a Smile, and Some Humor

Great customer service isn’t about blindly smiling at the customer and pulling the string to recite a scripted response that sounds forced and unnatural (as hilariously mocked in an old Saturday Night Live skit with Helen Hunt and David Spade playing cynical flight attendants saying, “And bye-bye” to all the departing passengers).

Great service is about being real, being fully present, making a connection, building trust, and ideally transferring a smile onto your customers’ faces. That’s why the online shoe business Zappos allows their call center employees to put their own personal spin on how they answer the phones, or why Southwest Airlines or WestJet Airlines allows their employees the freedom to have a little fun when doing the announcements (check out the Rapping Flight Attendant, who, incidentally, garnered loads of free publicity on major news shows across the U.S.).

Which is not to say that these employees aren’t given any expectations. Zappos call center employees, while not given a script, are given intensive training, coaching and feedback on their calls to ensure that they are coming across as professional and effective. Zappos focuses on the end result of building relationships, but leaves the “how you get there” up to the creativity and judgment of the individual employees. Not only is this a great recipe for better customer service, it’s a surefire recipe for happier, more engaged employees.

This also means you need to measure the right stuff!  Zappos, for example, is concerned about the quality of the calls, never the quantity – so employees aren’t measured by how many calls they respond to, but rather how effective the employee was at building a relationship with the customer.

Copyright Michael Kerr, 2013.  Michael Kerr is a funny business speaker, trainer and Canadian motivational speaker who helps organizations build more dynamic, inspiring workplace cultures.   Reach Michael at and be sure to sign up for his weekly e-zine Humor at Work.

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