8 Proof Points that Buddy the Elf is a Contact Center Expert

I just love Christmas movies as evidenced by the dozen or so that I dust off and watch every December. In past years I’ve written about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Holiday, and Arthur Christmas.

This year I set my sights on quite possibly the most loveable character in any Christmas movie — Buddy the Elf from the movie Elf. As I’ve spent time reflecting on Buddy, it’s clear to me that he worked in a contact center at some point in his life. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it with the following eight quotes. Let’s begin.

1. This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop. Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.

In the movie, Buddy actually says this as he enters the mailroom in the basement of the Empire State Building. But it also seems like Buddy is talking about his last contact center job — possibly one with super high agent turnover. It’s the sort of contact center where agent morale is low and the culture is negative, and managers don’t bother to empower employees, requiring them to hit unreasonable goals on metrics.

2. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Buddy is no typical contact center agent, however. He’s a force for good — a beacon of positivity. Pretty soon he transforms that smelly mailroom into a place where there’s singing, dancing, laughter, and joy. It’s as if he helped his colleagues realized that customer service ain’t so bad. Truly, we can choose our attitude, either making our contact centers soul-sucking places or we can transform them into places that spread cheer to our colleagues and customers.

3. Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?

It’s on Buddy’s first trip to the office with his dad that he answers a ringing telephone with this line. Wouldn’t this be such a wonderful way to answer customer calls? I imagine that Buddy’s boss probably instructed him to answer each customer call by saying, “Thank you for calling the North Pole. Buddy the Elf here. How can I help you?” But Buddy, instead, mixes up the message and personalizes it, causing customers to do a double-take and realize they’re talking to a human, not a robot.

4. I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.

Clearly, Buddy has heard someone say, “Customers can hear a smile through the phone.” I would extend this common saying to say that customers can read a smile in an email, chat, or other text-based interaction as well. It sounds cliche but it’s true. Customer service is a challenging profession and a positive attitude, including the simple decision to smile at the outset of each customer interaction, sets the tone for the rest of the interaction. Try this next time you’re about to speak with a difficult customer and see if it makes a difference.

5. Francisco! That’s fun to say! Francisco.

Buddy has clearly learned just how important it is to not just learn a customer’s name but to use it in a sentence. I’ve been guilty of asking for a customer’s name but not listening to their answer. By saying it two or three times I’m more likely to remember their name. It also communicates to them that they aren’t just another account number but an actual human being. What a great way to connect with customers.

6. You have such a pretty face. You should be on a Christmas card.

Buddy managed to compliment the customer in an appropriate way. This is another tool in his arsenal when it comes to connecting with customers. I would imagine that if a customer was frustrated, angry, or sad, Buddy would have tailored his approach to empathize with the customer. Or perhaps if the customer was planning a vacation or getting a new pet, he would care enough to learn more about where they were heading or what kind of pet they were adopting.

7. If you can sing alone, you sing in front of other people. There’s no difference.

Buddy has also spent plenty of time in contact center training classrooms, either as the trainee or the trainer. I think back to my very first contact center job and how nervous I was to take calls for the first time. It was at that point that my trainer gave me a vote of confidence and stuck right by me while I started my career serving customers. I’m still grateful for that push!

8. I thought maybe we could make gingerbread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands.

I love contact center leaders that plan events to bring the team together and boost morale. Perhaps we can make an effort to expand beyond the typical donuts or pizza in the breakroom. By intentionally creating unique and fun activities in the contact center, we liven up the workplace and communicate to the team that we care about their wellbeing. Just remember that in the movie, Buddy’s dad doesn’t want to hold hands and, to be honest, neither should we in a professional setting.

I think that’s pretty solid proof that Buddy the Elf once worked in a contact center. Let’s take a cue from him this holiday season and aim to approach our work with childlike innocence, an infectiously positive attitude, and a commitment to connecting with our customers. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, my friends!

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Jeremy Watkin is Director of Customer Experience and Support at NumberBarn. He has more than 19 years of experience as a customer service and contact center professional leading high performing teams in the contact center. Jeremy has been recognized numerous times as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, product marketing, social media, and more. When not working you can typically find him spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis. Be sure to connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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