With some 2 billion set to celebrate Christmas across the globe, we recently managed to secure an interview with the world’s one and only Chief Christmas Officer.
That’s right – Santa Claus himself found a few spare minutes to talk about reindeer robots driven by artificial intelligence (AI), the role of blockchain in the myrrh business, and experience platforms.
To the left, a young man speeds past on a bike bearing Google’s bright colors, on the right, the sun reflects off the glass facade of some think tank or another. It is a mild December day in Silicon Valley, but an exclusive team of reporters from Germany is grumbling all the same. Where is he, the industry insider we were promised, the one with the world’s biggest use case in customer experience management?
“Hello! I’m Santa,” we suddenly hear, and there he stands: the man responsible for 2 billion customer experiences around the world every year. Chief Christmas Officer sounds like a job with a to-do list likely longer than this fellow’s impressive white beard.
“Let’s get a move on!” Santa cries, and just like that, we find ourselves in the nerve center of one of the biggest global events of them all. “We try to automate as many processes as possible, of course.” Managing all the wish lists is impossible without a high-performance database, but Santa sees the bigger picture. “We have to take an end-to-end view of the holiday season,” he remarks.
Advanced analytics are meant to help identify customer preferences before they are put to paper. “The latest solutions are aiding us in recognizing how people experience brands and products and controlling the process accordingly,” Claus explains. This prompts a follow-up from one reporter. “Sorry, did you say ‘paper’? Aren’t you trying to make your office paperless?” Santa’s face breaks into a rosy-cheeked grin. “You know, I’ve thought about it, but I wouldn’t want to miss the children’s hand-drawn pictures – even if you might call them ‘unstructured content’!”
Three Wise Men Place Orders Remotely
“Do you work with AI?” another reporter inquires. Claus’ laughter sets his ample abdomen to jiggling. “You’re looking right at it.” Sure enough, we stand before a herd of reindeer crowded around a power strip. If not for the USB sockets in their glowing red noses, you would never guess that they were robots. “We call them ‘reinoids’ or ‘reinbots,’” Santa reveals. “My field sales team is just Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior after all. Without these autonomous AI vehicles here, those three would have been wise enough men to head for the hills long ago!”
Indeed, an intelligent organization works to improve the experiences of both its customers and its own employees. But what about the infamous “last mile”? Claus scoffs: “I’ve been solving that problem for 2,000 years. We used to have another word for airborne delivery systems: angels! These days, they call them drones.”
Santa reports that they have not had any problems in change management either. As an example, he tells us that ecological concerns have led to the Star of Bethlehem being replaced with an energy-saving light bulb. Its dim light makes it easy to imagine how hard it would be to find any particular manger without the smart vehicles. “You always have to show your employees what the benefits will be; then you’ll see changes pan out.”
Santa’s next project has to do with blockchain technology. The three wise men do their ordering remotely, of course. “That’s tricky when you’re talking about frankincense and myrrh,” he points out. “Goods like those can only be transported under certain temperature and humidity conditions. We want our blockchain to ensure that we’re offering our customers the right touch and smell-points all along the supply chain.”
Back to the reinoids, however, where one reporter can no longer contain a very important question: “They’ve all got red noses now, which one is Rudolph?” Santa was waiting for that name to come up and explains, “We’re agile when it comes to responding to trends. Thanks to globalization, Rudy’s fan base has been growing, and that’s obviously something we want to encourage. If you ever get a look at our analytics, you would even say they glow!”
Billions of Customer Experiences in the Christmas Business
Santa describes his intelligent operation as one that works with operational data, such as wish lists, and uses every relevant delivery channel, including chimneys and hanging stockings. It also tracks its production figures and combines it all with experience data; for instance, on the wonder in children’s eyes. An experience platform reveals the connections among all this information and allows for learning and making constant improvements to the business.
A timid voice asks from the background, “Doesn’t that mean you don’t have time for miracles anymore?” Santa sighs. In 2019, the German Retail Federation (HDE) is projecting €102.4 billion in Christmas turnover alone, with online sales accounting for nearly €15 billion of that figure. This would represent an increase of almost 11 percent for digital channels and three percent for brick-and-mortar businesses compared to 2018. “Miracles?” Santa asks. “An integrated ERP system, a well-oiled supply chain, a payment system that doesn’t act up – that’s what I call a miracle!”
How long will he do the job? “Just look at me: Every year my beard gets a little longer and my belly a little rounder. But, as long as there are lovely children all over the world, I will always get back on the sleigh.”