In an age of customer-always-right-ness -- to the point of occasional absurdity -- the question of what makes customer service "good" forever floats in business circles. It even makes its way into interviews, giving candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their willingness and capacity to go above and beyond to secure not just a single sale, but cement long-term customer relationships.

And yet, even the best training can't anticipate every customer experience, which is why the recent viral video of a McDonald's employee making a customer laugh -- despite the restaurant being unable to offer the requested hotcakes -- is a simple lesson in how to break down the formality of customer-employee engagement and appeal to humanness instead.

If you didn't catch the video, here's how it went down: A gentleman in Australia requested, among other things, hotcakes at a McDonald's drive-thru. In stunted formality and abject apology, the employee responded that he was terribly sorry but no, hotcakes were unavailable at the moment. Instead, he offered two-for-one cheeseburgers. When that offer was denied, he closed the deal, asking the customer for the order total in pennies (3,380 to be exact).

It pays to watch the video, because it wasn't simply the actions that reeled in the attention of the internet, but how the employee communicated: over-the-top, hilarious, and unnecessarily obsequious apologizing, plus quirky little turns -- like asking for the order total in cents instead of dollars and cents.

All of this made the customer laugh. Isn't that the foundation of a phenomenal customer experience? Some patrons even noted that they missed the drive-thru specifically because of that one employee: "He'd always make me smile after a bad night," one customer said.

The lesson here is simple. Customer service isn't all about formality and managing the negotiation (e.g. "If you buy an extra pair of pants, I'll give you a 20 percent discount"). At the end of the day, it's not complicated. it's about cutting through the fluff until you recognize you're building a genuine human relationship.

Humans like to smile. They like to laugh. They like to be happy. And seldom do customers expect to appreciably improve their mood when they walk into a store or restaurant; they expect to exchange money for goods or a service.

If, however, you can level up the experience with a smile or laugh -- something most companies can manage for free if they hire the right people and encourage natural, organic engagement -- you can set yourself apart, creating loyal customers, brand ambassadors, even die-hard fans.

And yes, you may even go viral.