• December 1, 2005
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

CRM the Santa Way

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Yeah, I did a Thanksgiving-related article last month. But as everybody knows, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade has Santa Claus bringing up the rear, reminding all the good little moms and dads to get their butts to stores and e-commerce portals for Black Friday and the ensuing madness that continues until December 25 and beyond, when you consider returns and exchanges. So really, I didn't have a choice but to deal with Christmas this month. Why is a nice Jewish guy doing an article on Christmas, you may ask? Well, Mom, it's all a question of marketing. For one thing, Santa Claus has a lot of it. The Mistletoe Industrial Complex mobilizes for maximum coverage around Labor Day every year, and I can't go up against that. I mean, Santa has had decades of endorsements from Coca-Cola. COCA-COLA. That's power. For another thing, I can't ignore the reality that Christmas is the second biggest holiday in the United States after the Super Bowl. Last, nobody wants to hear about eight days of dreidels and packages of underwear. (Okay, that last one wasn't fair; my folks always did right by my brothers and me, while celebrating a holiday that was never supposed to compete with the Yuletide Feast of Rampant Capitalism in the first place. Thanks, Mom and Dad.) Back on topic: Santa Claus must use a CRM suite. We've already touched on the marketing angle, but that only scratches the surface--the tip of the iceberg, if you will, and they grow 'em big at the North Pole. ERP (elf resource planning) is the heart of the operation, no doubt about it. Fuel costs alone for all the magic oats and sugar-frosted lichen reindeer eat are enormous: All eight tiny reindeer, plus Rudolf, must be kept on staff year-round--it would be a PR nightmare if the story leaked that these famous four-legged fliers were contractors that only worked one night a year and had to feed themselves the rest of the time. Second, we can't forget the importance of scheduling and directing the elf staff, no mean task: It takes an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters just to generate the collected works of Shakespeare, so what sort of workforce do you need to build the materialistic dreams of a billion children? Wrapping paper, boxes, raw materials (coal for the bad kids)--all of this must be planned for in advance, with the year's results used to predict what will be needed next Christmas. More forecasting data gets added throughout the year, based on naughtiness trends and new fads. Speaking of forecasting, weather and routes are major factors in organizing proper service to the crumbsnatcher customers. You just know Santa's got GPS, and gets constant updates on storm systems and visibility relative to his position, to get the most VPB (value per bushel) of feed out of Rudy's schnozz. If a house has been remodeled, the elves back at HQ have to access the latest schematics to get the jolly old fat dude down the chimney, under the tree, to the cookies, and back out again ASAP. Plus, routes change every year depending on kiddie behavior, families moving, births, and the like, so location-based services are an absolute must. Clearances and tracking data for NORAD (www.noradsanta.org), air traffic controllers, and other systems are just as important to avoid any unfortunate incidents. ("Sorry, Tiffany, but your Fashion Fever Barbie got sucked into the engine of a Boeing 757, along with Dasher and Dancer.") The rest of Santa's CRM system is tied very closely into the contact center, which has to turn millions of letters and emails into usable leads, as well as coordinate field data from the mobile sales force of all those department store Santas. All of that is then qualified against the Two Nu process (similar to Six Sigma, but the only criteria are Naughty and Nice). The qualified leads are passed along to ERP to source and create the mountain of presents needed for the journey. Yeah, I said source as well as create. Patent laws being what they are, you don't honestly think Old Saint Nick has his sweatshop elves making iPods, do you? Contact Senior Writer Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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