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When customer service hits warp speed

Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013 | 2:56 PM ET
Scott Eelis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

When's the last time you called, emailed, chatted with customer service and had an experience that was:

1) Helpful

2) Pleasant

3) Human

Companies take customer service seriously, and yet customers calling for help often feel like they're trying to sign up for Obamacare. It's not necessarily the customer service representative's fault. He or she often has to stick to a set policy. Going off script can get a person fired.

Maybe that's why the story of a Netflix user's encounter with a customer service rep is so refreshingly positive, it's become a big hit online.

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Someone posted on Reddit what happened when he reached out to Netflix after having a problem watching an episode of "Parks and Recreation."

The online chat began with, "I have a problem to report."

The reply? "This is Capt. Mike of the good ship Netflix, which member of the crew am I speaking with today?"

Whoa.

What? Capt. Mike? Isn't it a little early for happy hour over there at Netflix HQ?

However, the Netflix representative's hilarious statement immediately changed the entire tenor of the conversation. It conveyed congeniality without downplaying the need for help. It also framed the dilemma in context—this is a problem with Netflix, not Sandra Bullock trying to reach mission control in "Gravity."

The customer responds in a similar vein, turning his frown upside down and writing, "Greetings, Captain. Lt. Norm here."

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From there, the conversation gets increasingly geekier, and funnier.

Capt. Mike: "LT, what seems to be the problem?"

Lt. Norm: "Visual displays are erratic,sir. season 4, episode 13 of Parks and Recreation is behaving oddly."

The customer explains that at the same point in the episode, a three-second loop of video repeats over and over, which "Lt.Norm" jokingly refers to as "a temporal loop...our ships seem to be immune to the effect, as our lives are not actually repeating over and over."

Capt. Mike: "Oh, no. LT I told you no watching Netflix while we sail through the Bermuda Triangle. :)"

Lt. Norm: "Dammit, I'm an engineer, nota navigator."

About now I'm thinking, who cares if the problem is fixed? Reading the interchange is almost more fun than actually watching "Parks and Recreation." Capt. Mike even comments on the show—"Councilwoman Knope is such a worrier."

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Where do such customer service people come from, and can we clone them?

"Just like everyone else at Netflix, our CS (customer service) folks are given the freedom and responsibility to be great at what they do and this is a wonderful example of it," Netflix's chief communications officer, Jonathan Friedland, told CNBC.

Such freedom carries potential downside. "There are obviously situations where joking around might be a big risk," writes Chris Morran at Consumerist. Most people contacting insurance companies would probably not know what to make of being greeted this way, according to Morran. "But companies make the mistake of confusing 'businesslike' and 'scripted.' "

In the end, I don't know if the streaming mystery was ever solved, but when Capt. Mike finished up the chat with the usual, "LT Norm, are there any other Netflix issues I could help you with today?" Lt. Norm replied, "I almost wish there were."

Read the entire conversation here:

—By CNBC's Jane Wells; Follow her on Twitter: @janewells

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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