As part of a research team, Christine Mathies from the University of New South Wales Business School stood outside a suburban retailer (who had volunteered to be part of the study) and quizzed customers who came out on their experience and satisfaction. They knew one of the employees was a bit of a joker, and were trying to see whether humour made a difference to customers.
It turns out humour can be useful in increasing customer satisfaction, even if your customer is a grouch. But it’s only certain types of humour, Mathies says. If an employer jokingly brags or jokes about something else like the weather, that has better outcomes than making self-deprecating jokes.
In separate research, they also found humour can be good for the employees themselves, as it relieves tension in difficult situations and the stress of constant interaction with customers.
However, when it comes to service failures, they discovered employees should steer clear of using any jokes when offering apologies or compensation, as it comes across as inappropriate.