There’s a bit of a paradox in a How It’s Done article about Stuller’s holiday call center operations because, when it comes down to it, the most important things about a successful call center are hard to quantify.

As Drew Soileau, who trains sales associates for Stuller, explains, “I've had customers call, and they're convinced that we take some kind of friendly training course. I tell them, ‘No, that’s not it. There's no training for being friendly. It's just Southern Hospitality. It's just the way that we're raised down here to speak to people, even if they're complete strangers. It's just the way it is.’”

Some credit, of course, should also be given to the weather. Let’s admit it: It’s just easier to be friendly in early December in Lafayette, Louisiana, where the historic highs are in the upper 60s, than it is in Lafayette, Indiana, where the highs are in the low 40s.

Southern hospitality and warm weather being what they are, the call center still faces a significant challenge when the volume of orders doubles going into the holiday. Maggie Pere, Director of Sales Operations at Stuller, notes that, particularly at holiday time, the call center is really more a “contact center,” with different sorts of communications flooding in from different parts of the country and different generations of jewelers. For instance, while many millennial customers prefer to use the Internet to make purchases, the call center continues to fulfill faxes, and many customers print out their carts from the web and either fax or mail them.

This flood from various channels can be daunting, particularly toward the end of the day, between 2 and 6 p.m., when 75% of the orders come in. In order to keep things moving and to maintain a cheerful holiday vibe, a few things happen.

To begin with, the call center maintains an all hands on deck policy. Instead of hiring a large part-time sales team, associates with sales experience from other parts of the company usually pitch in when they can, making a bit of overtime pay in time for their own gift-buying. This year, we’ve supplemented this approach with two small classes of temporary salespeople, mostly college students looking to earn a bit of extra money during their winter breaks.

Another key strategy is simple: Food! Doughnuts appear at the community table with increasing frequency, and associates on break often convene around regular pizza deliveries. Another surefire motivational item that has become popular over the years is an abundant assortment of flavored coffee creamers. When exotically-colored coffee creamers start magically appearing around the center, it’s a signal that things are getting serious.

Another resources that associates point to is the patience and friendliness of our customers and the relationships we’ve built up over time. Many Stuller customers have been ordering with us for years, and they’re willing to wait for a minute or two to have a conversation with a friendly and knowledgeable human being.

Along with the hard work, there’s a feeling of camaraderie and holiday spirit, one that is shared not just among Stuller representatives, but with customers as well. As one associate explained, this crystallizes in occasional outbursts on the sales floor. “I just married another couple,” for instance, followed by cheering and whooping, has been shouted across the sales floor more than once.

 “That’s one of the great things about being in the jewelry business,” says Pere, “We get the marriages and the holiday presents. We don’t get many divorces, so that’s good. We get the happy times.”