Every customer service agent on the planet has had to deal with his/her fair share of weird questions. However instant communication channels like live chat seem to give birth to a lot more of those. Just the other day, Wojciech, our CEO was chatting with a customer who told him he wanted to “purchase flight tickets”. Just to be clear we don’t sell flight tickets, we sell a live chat solution. However this made us laugh and question which keywords our article on travel agencies and video chat is referenced to on Google.

It’s easy to discard weird questions and just tell the customer you can’t answer them. The hard part is to actually go the extra mile to answer them. We’ve written an entire chapter on weird questions in our new eBook and believe me we have some great examples of weird queries. Our main example is this funny story about a guy explaining a distance in bananas. It’s not only funny actually, it’s also a great example to learn from. Let’s not spoil the book too much, you should check out for yourself.

amazon mayday commercial Amy

I recently stumbled upon an article about Amazon MayDay and the all the strange requests agents are getting from customers. One customer asked for help with an Angry Bird level while a group of friends looked for help on how to make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Jeff Besos recently released a list of unusual MayDay requests:

– 35 marriage proposals

– 475 requests to talk to Amy (the actress in the MayDay commercial, see picture above)

– 109 requests for help to order pizza

– 44 instances where the MayDay advisor sang Happy Birthday

– 648 instances where people sang a song to the MayDay advisor

– 3 requests for a bedtime story

Really more than 109 people need help ordering pizza? We can suppose 90% of them aren’t legitimate requests and people are just curious about MayDay but that’s a lot of love for pizza! (Ok, pizza is delicious).

How should you handle a client asking you for help to order pizza? (when you don’t sell pizza)

Zappos has a really clear approach on that point: you should order pizza for your customer. Don Power, a social media specialist recently sent a simple tweet to the brand’s #insidezappos hashtag asking about them ordering pizza for customers. Guess what? Hours later pizzas were delivered at his house for him and his family.

Zappos send this customer a pizza

With 109 requests for pizza I don’t think Amazon started buying meals for everyone. However, even pointing them to the closest pizza place or sending them a link to a website where they can place an order would deserve the title of “amazing customer service”.

It’s all about helping your customer, even if his request has nothing to do with what you sell. In his article about Zappos, Don says that he had a meeting with a social monitoring company the next day and mentioned Zappos. He then published: a Linkedin article (that got almost 5000 views), a slideshare (almost 5000 views) and a youtube video (553 views) about it. Without mentioning all the tweeting he did to thank the company. And what did the brand pay for all this exposure? About $30, the price of 2 pizzas. Don’t you wish you could reach out to that many people using $30 dollars only?

Why weird questions should be your favorite

Unexpected questions from customers are a perfect opportunity for you to create a connection with them. When enquiring about the pizza Don thought Zappos would laugh about it, maybe tell him a nice story about this one time they sent a pizza to a customer and then say that it’s all about their company’s culture. Don’t get me wrong, this would already have been a very nice answer from them. But Zappos is different. They like telling their story but they love showing to customers what their culture is all about even more.

The weirdest questions are the best opportunity for you to show your customers just how human you are.

Getting back to Amazon’s MayDay button. Agents have a possibility to draw on the screen of the user (via a screen sharing feature). This was supposed to be used mainly to show the user where he has to tap or what he has to do. However you wouldn’t imagine how many requests agents get for drawing happy faces, unicorns, dragons or anything else customers can think of. I, for one, absolutely can’t draw but I would still love to get that kind of requests. Imagine laughing with your client about how bad your drawing is. This is how you build happy customer service memories for the customer and yourself and this is the kind of things people looove to share.

Do brands get more unusual questions on live chat?

While there’s no way to prove it I tend to see that people feel more comfortable asking silly things on live chat. They feel protected by the anonymous factor and feel more comfortable goofing around with customer service.

Just look at this conversation between Zappos and a mysterious customer called Timmy:

Jonathan: Hello Timmy. How can I help you?

Timmy: do you know how wide the G-Shock Atomic Solar – AWG101 SKU #7403774 is?

Timmy: i mean, how big a wrist it would fit?

Timmy: Timmy has a big fat wrist

Timmy: Timmy need watch grande

Jonathan: I’ll see what I can find out for Timmy.

Timmy: awesome. and can we please continue to talk about Timmy in the 3rd person? Timmy likes to boost Timmy’s ego by talking about Timmy that way

Jonathan: Jonathan would be happy to neglect the use of pronouns for the duration of this conversation.

Timmy: Jonathan and Timmy shall get along just fine

Jonathan: Will Timmy be able to measure Timmy’s wrist?

Timmy: Timmy’s wrist is big, but not Biggie-Smalls big. Timmy doesn’t have the required measurement instruments.

Timmy: Timmy is 6′4″ 220lbs if that helps Jonathan

Jonathan: Luckily, that is roughly the size of Jonathan’s brother, so that does help.

Could you imagine doing this on the phone without laughing? I might not be the best example as I have a really hard time being serious in this kind of situation but I believe very few people could.

While the request here wasn’t unusual, the funny tone of the conversation is typical of what you could find on live chat only. The channel is often considered as cold and borderline robotic but brands like Zappos are showing everyone how live chat can also be fun.

Live chat has the advantage to be instant. It helps making online customer service conversations a little more spontaneous. It makes a lot more sense for a customer to call MayDay, wait 15 seconds and ask their silly questions than to call a phone number, going through the automatic voicemail system and waiting 10 minutes before being connected to a live person.

If anything, strange questions are a sign that you’re doing things right. Believe me, people don’t bother to wait, or go through any trouble just to test your agents sense of humor. Questions like “hi I know you sell shoes but do you know where I can get a pizza?” should be celebrated. It means your clients think you are nice and helpful. If they ask, it’s because they know you won’t make fun of them and send them away. Isn’t that how you want customers to see your business?

Don’t make fun of weird questions, have fun answering them!

This last title is a perfect conclusion to the way I feel about strange queries. In most companies, customer service agents will just go blank, quickly answer that they can’t help and then laugh about it with colleagues. That’s too bad. There’s nothing better than weird questions! They are a lot of fun to answer when you think about it.

Imagine you are a member of the Amazon MayDay’s team: after 20 questions about how to lock, unlock, change the volume or use the internet on the tablet, you get this question “Excuse me could you draw a pony for my little sister?”. That’s fun right? A question like that directly sets a good mood. It’s an excellent way to forget about angry customers yelling at you.

Your turn! How do you deal with unsual queries? Would you order a pizza for your customers?

Photo Credit: Stéfan via Compfight cc