As most (if not all) business professionals know, building strong relationships with customers requires ongoing attention and strategic efforts. To truly connect on an individual level and offer memorable experiences brands must understand who their customers are as people; looking beyond transactions or purchase patterns. As a brand’s consumer population rises, so does the difficulty in fostering and growing these meaningful relationships. Imagine having 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 customers who all have differing preferences but seek the same level of connection and attention. This would be quite the challenge.
Now, expand that customer population to everyone in the world. Consider what it would take to deliver unique and memorable experiences to each individual based on their unique preferences, and oh yeah not to mention you only have one night to make it happen. With these challenges in mind, it should come as no surprise that our Thought Leader Spotlight for the month of December is shining on the one-and-only, Santa Claus.
What factors had the most influence on your decision to choose the North Pole as your headquarters?
Well, there were a few key “must haves” on my list of ideal locations; the main one being privacy. I’m very protective of my operational trade secrets, and with such tight deadlines we can’t afford any distractions. We also needed a lot of open space and room to grow, which wasn’t available on the Bermuda Triangle islands we were considering. There’s also the cold weather which helps prevent the machinery from overheating. Ultimately the North Pole emerged as the best location considering our list of requirements, and it’s been working out pretty well for us.
How do you process and organize the high volume of inbound messages you receive throughout the year?
Luckily this area is handled by Mrs. Claus and her team of elves. In the past I just kept all the letters in big bags and would dump them out on a table when reading. One year we had an “incident” where an elf tripped while carrying hot cocoa. After that I was politely asked to hand over mailroom responsibilities; which has actually worked out quite well for all of us. Frankly, I try to stay away from that wing of the factory. I’m given binders of letters sorted by the sender’s age and location which has been very helpful in our ongoing efforts to streamline processes. I was also reluctant to incorporate Email into our operation, but it seems kids these days are better on a keyboard than they are with a pen. I’ve been told start looking at something called SnapChat, but I’m not quite ready for that yet.
With such high production volume and strict delivery timeline, are you leveraging any data or specific metrics to track and measure your annual performance?
We definitely have a strict timeline, considering I have to visit every house in the entire world in one night, but we’ve had a delivery rate of 100% and a satisfaction score of 5/5 since like forever so annual performance is pretty good.
However, we do leverage data for resource allocation and creating our production strategy. For example, it was all hands on deck for the Beanie Baby craze during the mid-90’s but after that trend fizzled out we had to quickly shift resources to Furby. We hit our numbers by understanding which items have the highest demand and their respective production requirements.
You’ve managed to cultivate such passion and loyalty amongst your fans without much promotional activity outside of the holiday season. How are you so effective at fostering these strong relationships with such limited direct communication?
It all comes down to providing unique and memorable experiences for each individual. No two people are alike, which is why I pay close attention to who they are and what they want throughout the entire year. Like the song says, “He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.” This is not an exaggeration. It’s the little details that matter most, so it’s important for me to know my fans beyond what is on their Christmas list. Then there’s the value of brand advocacy. When I deliver the perfect gift complete with all the bells and thistles, then I’ve created a bond with that person who will then share their experience and excitement with everyone they meet. This way I’m able to step back and let word-of-mouth further develop my positive image which I reinforce by offering a consistent experience the following year. It’s not complicated, but it is very specific and detail-oriented.
What are some of the hot gift trends you’re seeing on Christmas Lists this year?
The kids are usually pretty consistent with their requests; bikes, video games, Legos, arts and crafts, dolls and action figures, and so on. The children asking for a smartphone are getting younger and younger, which is interesting. You’re in third grade, who are you calling or texting that you won’t see on the playground during recess? I guess they like the games, but what happened to playing outside or reading? I guess I’m still old school in that way.
On the other hand, the adults have been getting more specific and more technologically advanced with their requests. I used to be making leather wallets and crockpots. Now I’m making handheld wireless devices that can turn houselights on from halfway around the world AND adjust a car’s seat heaters. I suppose in a way it makes things easier for the elves; rather than making three separate items that perform three separate functions, they make one item that performs ten separate functions all at the same time. But as fancy as these things get, I’ll never stop giving socks and underwear. Some things just never go out of style.
Am I on the nice list or the naughty list this year?
Oh, I think you already know the answer to that question.
What is your favorite quote?
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
Norman Vincent Peale