Humor Soothes the Savage Beast


I was an angry customer on Saturday.

Mind you, I wasn’t planning on being angry.  I wasn’t actually thinking of myself as a customer at all it happened.

The postman had just delievered the US mail, and I was going through the freshly delivered stack of envelopes.

Near the top was my most recent phone bill.

When I opened it up, I got what can only be described as sticker shock.

You see, I had just upgraded my cellphone in the past month.  I had been using a 5 year old smartphone (I know, how smart could it be if it was 5 years old?), and had just traded up to the latest model, with lots of bells and whistles.

Those bells and whistles use up a lot of data.

When I got the phone a few weeks earlier, and was talking to the sales rep, data usage was top of mind.  I asked him,

Will I need to get a larger data plan for this new phone?

His response:  Let’s see you’ve got 10MB a month.  You should be fine.

Which brings us back to the sticker shock.

On the phone bill, there was an itemized listing for data use, by kilobyte.

It read:

kb plan: 10,108

acutal kb usage: 112,455

Looks like I had gone over…by just a wee bit.  I had used just more that 1 Gigabyte of data.   Pretty normal usage for a phone of this kind, I’m told.

But my old plan had 10% of that capacity.

The extra cost for this overage? $481.81.


I immediately called the phone company.

I could feel the blood pulsing in my neck.

I was angry.  Really angry.

I felt I had been misled, especially after asking explicitly about data usage.

Hello, this is Tom, how can I help you? answered the friendly voice on the other end.

I did my best to stay calm and explain what had happened to Tom.

Tom’s first response?

Man, that’s horrible!  I can see why you’re really upset.

Immediately, I started to feel better.

Let’s see what we can do to help you out here.  We’ve got to deal with this.  Now is  your name pronounced Alan?

This wasn’t the first time I’d gotten this question.  I was liking Tom more and more.

Tom, it’s Alain–it’s a French name.  But frankly, if you can help me deal with this issue, you can call me whatever you want.

Tom didn’t miss a beat.  His reply?

We’ll get right to it, Steve.

Laugh out loud.  I was liking Tom more and more.

Over our 22 minute conversation, Tom and I talked about winter weather.  He was based in Northwest Wisconsin, but he couldn’t tell me where. (He described it as “an undisclosed location, like Area 51”.)

One thing I so appreciated about Tom was his genuineness.  It was clear he wasn’t working off of a call script.  His rapport building skills were excellent.

He had taken one ticked off customer and completely turned him around.

(And yes, we did get the $481.81 charge dropped.)

How can you use humor with your clients to build stronger relationships?

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