Introducing Santa-as-a-Service

’Twas the night before Xmas, when all through the house,
Wi-Fi devices were whirring, sharing data about.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In the hope that Santa had bandwidth to spare…

It was Christmas Eve 2021. Santa was getting ready for the big night, thinking about how much things had changed since the old days. Jolly Saint Nicholas had completely redesigned his North Pole operations using a ‘design thinking’ approach in 2019. He’d installed a robotic automation platform to manage manufacturing and logistics, and his faithful elves now worked in customer experience instead of making toys. It was a big PR success story, too. Wired Magazine dubbed him ‘Silicon Saint Nick’, and TechCrunch named him “Entrepreneur of the year” twice in a row.

This year would be even better, because Santa had finally worked out all the bugs in his new high tech operation. Or at least, that what he thought…

Illustration of santa

It hadn’t been easy training the elves to run a 24/7 omnichannel communications hub, mostly because they were a bit too small to use the equipment. They spent a lot of time running around the keyboards to reach the F keys and getting tangled-up in human sized headset kits. And when their workstations crashed they’d sprinkle magic elf dust on them, making the monitors grow little legs and dance about singing “Let it go” from Frozen. But apart from that, Santa’s new operation was smooth, efficient and more customer-centered than ever before.

Santa’s target demographic, the little boys and girls of the world, loved the new Santa-as-a-Service (or SaaS) experience. The volume of snail mail asking for presents may have dropped but SMS, online chat and FB messenger channels were very busy, and there had been over 100 million downloads of the new app (which included a gift swap marketplace to make sure everyone got what they wanted).

Santa used to manage his naughty and nice lists using a quill pen and paper made from fir tree bark, but now he used a non-relational database fed automatically by chat bots and social media data, all linked through his ‘Ha-API Christmas’ naughty-nice data mining system. There had been a few glitches along the way, when some children hacked the system and changed their status from naughty to nice, but his upgraded 128-bit encrypted VPN soon put a stop to that sort of thing. Santa called it his Christmas Cloud.

When his smartwatch alarm let him know it was time to check on the sleigh loading operations, Santa grabbed his low-carb turkey and cranberry smoothie and jogged off down the corridor, glancing at his wrist with glee as he hit his 10,000 daily steps target. When he reached the sleigh hangar, he paused to catch his breath and said hello to the old reindeer he’d retired the year before. Except Rudolf. He wasn’t retired. Santa had put him in charge of programming the GPS routes for his new drone fleet. His trusty red-nosed Chief Navigation Officer was on the far side of the hangar, banging his hoof on his laptop and swearing to himself.

Illustration of Rudolf

“What’s the problem Rudolf? Sat nav issues?” asked Santa.

“No. I’ve been using predictive analytics to optimize the fleet this year, accounting for meteorological data, airlines, GPS signal blackspots and other key variables. That’s all fine. But there’s too many wireless IoT devices in homes these days, the interference is messing with the drone systems. They can find the chimney okay, but once they get inside they get confused. Remember last year? Our CSAT scores dropped big time when they started leaving presents under the furniture instead of Christmas trees.”

“Our NPS numbers are still good, aren’t they?”

“From children, yes. But parents, no. People won’t keep recommending us if Tiny Tim’s new BMX winds up getting rammed under the sofa or whatever. If we can’t find a fix we’re in big trouble.”

“Why didn’t you mention this before?” Santa asked.

“I’ve sent you an email about it every day, didn’t you see them?” said Rudolf, looking cross.

“What? You’re  I thought you were a spammer!” blushed the old man.

As Santa and Rudolf tried to come up with a solution, Bunk, the elf that looked after the retired reindeer, overheard their conversation. Things were sounding bad. The whole future of the new Santa-as-a-Service business model was hanging in the balance. What would their VC investors say? Another drop in their CSAT performance might jeopardize their Series B funding, not to mention ruin his elf stock options.

Bunk ran as fast as his stockinged legs could carry him to see Gizmelda, the elf Chief Experience Officer to see if she could help. By the time they made it back to the hangar, Santa and Rudolf were drinking egg nog and munching mince pies, heads hung low.

Illustration of a mischievious elf

“What’s all this?” asked Gizmelda crossly “This is no time to be feeling sorry for yourselves!”

“We’re finished,” sighed Santa, “Back in the day I just dropped down the chimney with some walnuts and a teddy bear and people loved it, but now everyone’s got a house full of wireless gizmos we can’t deliver the presents efficiently. The negative customer ratings will finish us with the investors!”

“Nonsense!” laughed Gizmelda

“If we can’t get the presents under the tree this year, it’s game over,” added Rudolf, grimly.

“I’ve got an idea…” the little old elf CXO removed a pouch from her belt “Pass me your laptop, Rudolf!”

“I hope that’s not a bag of magic elf dust,” growled Santa, shaking his head, “If I hear that song one more time, I swear… I’m gonna lose it!”

Gizmelda rolled her eyes and carried on. Inside the pouch was a USB drive. She plugged it into Rudolf’s laptop and fired up PowerPoint deck entitled Q4 Ethnographic Insights.

“These are the results of our last qualitative study of Christmas users,” she said. “The underlying trends in all our KPIs and verbatim keywords are positive, but when we did our deep dive research, our Ethno-ho-ho team discovered people feel nostalgic for some of the old pre-digital traditions. Especially the idea of a real person delivering their presents, it’s a big part of their emotional connection to the Christmas brand. So let’s do it the old way, like you used to, Santa. That would solve the drone problem.”

“Me?” said Santa shaking his head “Deliver presents by hand again? No way! I’ve got to send our end of year report to the shareholders tomorrow, I can’t stay up all night delivering presents, I’m the CEO-HO-HO!”

“You’ve got 20,000 elves upstairs about to come off their support center shifts and take a day off,” smiled Gizmelda with a glint in her eye “Why not offer them a bit of overtime?”

illustration of an elf being chased by a drone

And so, that Christmas Eve as everyone was sleeping soundly in their beds, high above the chimneys of the world Santa’s sleigh drones dropped thousands of tiny little parachute elves down chimneys, loaded with presents. 20,000 tiny pairs of stockinged feet pattered this way and that, leaving brightly wrapped gifts neatly under the tree. Meanwhile, back at the North Pole control room, Santa and Rudolf watched the live feeds, grinning with delight. It was the most successful Christmas delivery run ever.

“Our CSAT score is reading 100% positive!” cheered Santa the next morning over breakfast with Rudolf “Nothing like a bit of elf power.”

“Agreed,” nodded Rudolf, “Those little guys really put the ‘e’ back into customer e-xperience.”

“Ho ho ho!” laughed the old saint. “Oh, I nearly forgot, this is for you. Merry Christmas.” He reached into his sack and handed Rudolf a carrot, with a warm smile. The reindeer’s nose glowed brightly with delight. Then, after an awkward pause, he added

“And… did you get my email about the VR contact lenses I wanted?”

Illustration by Anthony Atkinson

Illustration by Anthony Atkinson

” Sorry,” blushed Santa “I really must get that spam filter sorted…” his voice trailed off as Rudolf started looking at something on his smartphone. “What are you doing?” he asked the reindeer.

“Oh… nothing” smirked Rudolf.

And just then, on Santa’s jollymetrics dashboard, the CSAT score dropped, ever so slightly.

It now read 99.99999999999999999% Positive.

Original artwork by Anthony Atkinson.

Communications Director

Sutherland Labs
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