A Little Humor and Personalization Go a Long Way

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on April 13, 2018. Click here to read the original post.

I’m not completely sure what it was about my latest trip to Costco but it was a magical one. Maybe it was the fact that they now have stretchy khaki pants — I’ve never had a pair of khakis I liked until now. Or perhaps it was the 360 pack of dog waste bags for nine bucks — I just got a puppy so these sorts of things are important.

Actually, I really enjoyed my interaction with the cashier, Kirkland. Yes that’s his real name — and for those of you who don’t shop at Costco — many of the items they sell are Kirkland brand.

A little humor

I just had to ask:

Me: “So is your name really Kirkland?”
Kirkland: “Actually it’s Kirk but everyone here calls me Kirkland.”
Me: “That’s awesome. Such a fitting nickname.”
Kirkland: “I used to go by Captain Kirk but then non-trekkies asked me what branch of the military I was in and so Kirkland it was.”
Me: “Haha”

That was a fun dialog that didn’t take much and made the experience a whole lot better. Let’s look at a couple reasons it was fun:

  1. Rather than responding to my question with a simple yes or no, Kirkland dared to have a dialog with me.
  2. He allowed his personality and sense of humor to shine through, having a little fun with his customers. Clearly he’s proud to work at Costco.

A little personalization

And now it was Kirkland’s turn to ask the questions:

Kirkland: “What kind of dog do you have?”
Me: “We just got a puppy. He’s a lab husky mix.”
Kirkland: “Oh wow. That’s gonna be a big dog.”
Me: “Yeah and these bags are really important.” (For obvious reasons)
Kirkland: “Indeed they are.” (As he explains their use to one of his colleagues)

This whole interaction worked for a couple reasons:

  1. He took a cue from my order, the waste bags, and personalized the conversation. I’m glad we talked about my new puppy and not the stretchy khakis.
  2. Kirkland took an interest in something that’s important to me. Some topics are off limits (like stretchy khakis) but pets are generally safe.

While some level of personalization is almost always necessary, humor requires a level of sensitivity to the customer and the situation. Some customers just want to get their issues solved and to get on with their life.

In my case, asking about his name was Kirkland’s cue that I was interested in having a conversation. And like so many great customer service professionals, he recognized that this was an opportunity to inject a little humor and personalize his approach. Come to think of it, that’s precisely why my most recent experience at Costco was a magical one.

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