The Best (and Worst!) Holiday Customer Service Moments on Film

The holidays are here once again. Amidst the flurry of parties, shopping, and decorating you’ll do this season, chances are good you’ll also find time to watch a few of your favorite holiday films. Whether you’re a fan of the classics like It’s a Wonderful Life or prefer Will Ferrell’s more modern take on the holidays in Elf, you may notice a common thread: many holiday films include scenes depicting customer service interactions.

Christmas movies

Customer service moments in Christmas movies are often played for laughs, but we can learn important lessons from such scenes. As you reflect on your accomplishments this year and plan your goals for the next, keep these moments in mind:

The Horrors of Holiday Car Rental in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Perhaps one of the most iconic comedic moments to ever be captured in a holiday film, the scene in which Steve Martin tries to rent a car in Planes, Trains and Automobiles definitely warrants a spot on our list. In the movie, Martin plays a man eager to make it home in time for Thanksgiving. Bad luck delays his efforts again and again, and by the time he reaches the rental car service desk, the man is out of patience. As the employee chats happily on the phone about her own holiday plans, Martin’s character grows more and more upset.

This anger is expressed in language that’s not quite polite enough to share in this post, but the scene makes an important point. We never know what emotional baggage our customers carry with them when they approach us. While there’s no excuse for folks to lose their temper at customer service workers, we can all work to find empathy and understanding for those who call us up after a hard day. The takeaway? Work with customers, not against them!

Mr. Bean Wraps a Gift in Love, Actually

The holiday rush can be tough to bear on both sides of the retail counter. While employees feel the crunch of long lines and never-ending shifts, shoppers feel a similar pressure to get everything done in time. This is perfectly depicted in the jewelry counter scene in Love, Actually. Actor Rowan Atkinson – most famous for his portrayal as the hapless Mr. Bean – plays a department store gift wrapper with a little too much flourish. In the scene, he takes his time crafting the perfect holiday gift display for his customer, played by Alan Rickman.

The problem? Rickman’s character is buying a gift for his mistress, and not the wife with whom he’s shopping. Though he attempts to hurry the gift-wrapping process along a bit quicker, Atkinson focuses more on the finished product than on the demand of the customer.

Customer service moments in Christmas movies are often layered with context and meaning, but there’s an easy takeaway from this scene: listen to your customer. While you might find a complimentary gift-wrapping service a treat, not everyone will appreciate or require such an offer. To keep folks coming back time and time again, be perceptive about their time and don’t waste it when they’re in a rush!

Santa Traumatizes a Shopper in A Christmas Story

There are few holiday movies as beloved as A Christmas Story. It’s one of the most universal and relatable films of the genre. One moment that particularly stands out in the minds of viewers is Ralphie’s interaction with Santa Claus. Rather than the jolly, friendly figure he’s supposed to be, this version of Santa is rude, impatient and more than a little frightening. After waiting in an endless line, Ralphie works up the courage to ask Santa for his deepest desire: A Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model air rifle.

Santa’s response is a refrain echoed throughout the film: “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

Santa laughs at Ralphie’s request and kicks him down the slide for good measure. While no one could mistake this customer service moment as anything but horrifying, it’s worth remembering this season. Even when you find a shopper’s request ridiculous, it’s important to keep a professional demeanor and extend kindness instead of skepticism.

Buddy Goes the Extra Mile in Elf

Will Ferrell’s Elf has become a new classic in the holiday comedy genre, and for good reason. His character, Buddy the Elf, has become synonymous with childlike optimism and wonder. The other important takeaway from this film? Buddy is fantastic at designing the ultimate customer experience.

As detailed more thoroughly in another blog entry, we love the way Buddy channels his Christmas spirit into preparing his department store for shoppers. Not content with lackluster decorations around the store, Buddy stays up all night to create a winter wonderland worthy of Santa himself. Of all the customer service moments in Christmas movies, this one is perhaps the most inspiring. The lesson to remember?! It pays to go the extra mile for your customers!

Charity, Kindness and Connection in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

While you might remember the Home Alone for its slapstick comedy and Sticky Bandit-torturing scenes, we’re especially fond of the moment Kevin (played by Macaulay Culkin) meets Duncan, the owner of Duncan’s Toy Chest. As Kevin pays for a toy he’s selected, Duncan shares his plan to donate toys to a local children’s hospital. Kevin offers money to contribute to the cause, and Duncan offers him a selection of ornaments as a thank you.

While this moment may not be as iconic as other customer service moments in holiday movies, it’s certainly one of the most heartwarming. The scene depicts a real, human moment between a young customer and the owner of the toy store. It deserves a spot on our list for illustrating the possibilities awaiting generous, patient proprietors and their shoppers. It’s often difficult to see the forest for the trees during the busy holiday weeks, but it’s important to remember the potential for real human connection amidst the chaos. Channel Duncan this season and join your customers in making the world a little brighter in any way you can.

Your Partner is Holiday Customer Service

MAP Communications can help you extend the kind of warmth and kindness displayed in the very best customer service scenes in holiday movies. With the enthusiasm of Buddy the Elf and the generosity of Duncan, our team is ready to dive headfirst into the festive frenzy. If you require a little extra help this season, consider signing up for a free trial of our live answering service. We know it’ll give you the administrative boost your team requires to get through the busiest time of year.