Communicating a sense of fun to your customers brings results to the bottom line


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“Try taking yourself and your business less seriously. You may be surprised that many others will take you more seriously.” – Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Atlantic

This principle has been repeated time and time again at various companies: from the above quoted Virgin Atlantic, to Southwest Airlines, to Google, to Zappos; all of these companies creating an atmosphere of fun that benefits not only the employees, but their customers.

Why would people want buy from you if they don’t enjoy doing so? Making your products and services fun to buy is simply taking the whole process of marketing one step further.

Christopher Meyer, in his book “Relentless Growth” writes: “If you can make your customers laugh, and excite them with your vision of what life can be, they are not going to walk into your outlets, but run into them.”

Think of what happens when you come across a funny article or cartoon online: do you ever want to share it with others and forward on to your circle of friends? Deborah Chaddock Brown tells the story of her teenager who received a funny “April Fool’s” text on his phone, and even though he was busily engaged onstage in a school play, he discreetly forwarded the text to his friends, who then continued the cycle…each one wanted to be the first one to share the fun!

If humor naturally spreads, and a primary goal of our business is to increase our customer base, then why aren’t we incorporating humor more into our businesses? Maybe it’s because we are intimidated by the following “3 Myths of Humor in the Workplace:” Are we afraid of appearing unprofessional? Are we concerned we will offend? Are we afraid of becoming unproductive?

Humor and professionalism. The Random House dictionary defines a professionalism as:

  • 1. professional character, spirit, or methods.
  • 2. the standing, practice, or methods of a professional, as distinguished from an amateur.

By this definition, it is not impossible to be professional and be humorous; in fact, a measure of humor can actually reinforce professional character by demonstrating confidence, self-assurance and wit. While many believe that humor demonstrates insecurity, it actually takes guts to present humorous insights that could potentially bomb.

However, I have worked with individuals in the past who thought they were being funny, when in fact they were simply making asses out of themselves (sorry, there’s really no way to soften that one). When that happens, then unprofessionalism is absolutely evident.

Humor and offensiveness. The key to humor in the workplace is “Consider the audience – always.” The reason humor in the workplace is classically considered unprofessional is because most people who attempt it are typically so bad at it, and do it at the expense of others. Inappropriate humor has no place in the workplace; if it’s inappropriate for the workplace, there’s a good chance it’s just not going to work well anywhere.

Understand there’s a difference between being humorous and telling jokes. Good, clean jokes are difficult to come by, because someone, (or some group or class of people) ultimately has to be the “butt” of the joke. This tends to alienate and offend.

Being humorous, though, typically lightens a mood, and is evidenced by the following principles:

  • Sharing a unique and funny way of looking at a challenge that everyone in the department or company is facing.
  • Helps barriers to communication come down.
  • Encourages and unites.
  • Strengthens teamwork by providing a uniting, light-hearted perspective.

If the comment you’re about to make doesn’t follow these guidelines, then there’s a good chance it will be inappropriate, offensive, and unprofessional.

Humor and unproductiveness. Contrary to most assumptions, appropriate workplace humor actually helps to spur creativity and innovation. Many times, the humorous viewpoint is the “breath of fresh air” that breaks a chain of monotonous thinking or corporate-think. By continuing to learn new things, new twists on what you do, you can find other perspectives that lighten and enliven others.

Humor also has the ability to motivate. Herman Cain has said, “Nobody motivates today’s workers. If it doesn’t come from within, it doesn’t come. Fun helps remove the barriers that allow people to motivate themselves.” Change things up, and productivity can be spurred on to new levels.

Christopher Meyer concludes: “Running a successful business should be fun for you, and there’s every reason why you should be able to communicate that sense of fun to your customers. Certainly, if you aren’t having fun, you probably aren’t running a successful business.”

Just for fun…

“I don’t need a lot of money; I just need enough to tide me over until I need more.” – Bill Hoest

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


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