Recently, I was on a plane and paid $3 for a Vitamin Water. When it came, I discovered – to my surprise – that the bottle was half the size of the one that can be purchased at Target for $1. After realizing that I had just paid 6x more for the Vitamin Water than I would have if I wasn’t 30,000 feet in the air, I was pretty ticked off.
While thinking about whether it made sense to complain, I looked at the bottle and saw the following:
“so yeah, this bottle is a little shorter than normal. but shorter is better. want proof? what’s better, a short or long phone call with your parents? a short or long download time? and who doesn’t want to be on a short list? that’s right, short is killing it right now.”
Instantly my anger melted and I found myself smiling. No longer was I interested in complaining. Rather, I was marveling at the clever way in which the prose seemed to be a direct response to my frustration.
We all know that humor can diffuse a tense situation. But can humor also prevent a situation from becoming tense in the first place? And, can the use of humor help reduce the likelihood of customer complaints?
While I couldn’t find any rigorous research showing a causal link, there are plenty of examples of companies that use subtle humor regularly and have large loyal fan bases:
- Users of Google Chrome see the following message when the program crashes: “Aw, snap!”
- The napkins at Chipotle say the following: “This napkin is made from 90% post-consumer recycled unbleached paper. It could have been an electricity bill or a parking ticket in its past life. Forgive & forget.”
- SoomSoom – a popular chain fast-food restaurant in Manhattan best known for its falafels – has descriptions of all of its ingredients on the walls. For example, coriander is described in the following way: ” This edible plant is soft and hairless. It has also been known to relieve anxiety, insomnia and baldness. We just made up that baldness fact. Sorry if we got your hopes up.”
- Upon launching Intuit’s TurboTax program, users are told that the program will open in a moment. But since the program takes a while to launch, that initial message is quickly replaced with “OK, we know it’s taking longer than a moment.”
- Southwest Airlines flight attendants regularly use humor during in-flight announcements. An announcement I’ve heard quite often is to tell passengers that “in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more.” And here’s a video of a flight attendant rapping the safety announcements.
- Virgin America uses humor to make what is probably the most interesting pre-flight video ever. Take a look at it – I promise it will keep your attention and make you smile.
How can your business incorporate humor to minimize customer frustrations and improve the overall experience?
The preceding was a post from Dr. Atul Teckchandani, one of the great professors teaching Entrepreneurship at CSUF.