Ooma Blog

What if Santa went virtual?

By Husain Sumra|Wednesday December 2, 2020

With a North Pole headquarters and “customers” all around the world, Santa’s toy operation is the epitome of remote work. It’s easy to imagine how an old-fashioned process of mailed letters and hand-delivered toys could be modernized. 

If Santa upgraded to the technology used by today’s business, he could streamline operations. This could mean having more time for sipping hot cocoa. Let’s look at the math about what would happen if Santa Claus went virtual.

What If Santa Went Virtual

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Letters to Santa and a help desk staffed by elves.

To understand the impacts of Santa modernizing his operations, let’s start by estimating his “customers.” How many children hope for a gift from Santa each year?

A calculation from the Atlantic estimates that around the world, there are 526 million Christian children under the age of 14 who could believe in Santa or their culture’s version of him. While Santa has become a celebrated figure across many beliefs and secular households, this population figure is our best guess about the number of Santa believers. Potentially, however, there is a wide margin of error here. 

Now let’s consider the number of letters sent to Santa each year. The United Nations calculated that around the world, about seven million letters to Santa are sent through the post office. Presumably, Mom and Dad are grabbing some letters before they’re picked up by the postal worker. So, the total number of letters sent to Santa is likely higher than what is reported by the post office.

Still, the numbers show an opportunity gap for Santa to reach more kids. This can be achieved by having a better way for kids to stay in touch with the North Pole. 

If Santa were to improve his customer service by giving each child a chance to have an annual phone call with the North Pole, he would need a customer service staff of nearly 30,000 elves.

That’s based on a customer service agent’s average rate of 50 calls per day. This team of elves would be about five-and-a-half times larger than the biggest call center in the United States.

  • Santa’s North Pole call center: 28,822 elves
  • American Express call center: 5,200 employees
  • Fidelity Investments call center: 4,400 employees.

Santa’s customer service elves would also have the challenge of needing to be able to speak many different languages. After all, Santa Claus also goes by Sinter Klaas, Babbo Natale, Hoteiosho, De Kerstman and many other names from different languages and cultures.

We like to think that the North Pole would be outfitted with Ooma Office phone service. Thanks to Ooma’s award-winning service, Santa could pay less for phone service while accessing enterprise-grade phone features and low-cost international rates.

North Pole manufacturing and operations.

With today’s modernized manufacturing, elves don’t need to labor endlessly at the North Pole workshop. Thanks to automation, elves can manage a digital workstation for a mostly hands-free manufacturing process. 

On average, automation saves companies 16 to 22 percent on labor costs. In some factories, 90 percent of humans have been replaced by robots.

In an automated North Pole toy factory, a manufacturing line with 12 robotic stations can make 7,200 toys per day. This is based on the build rate of the ToyMaker 3000 at the Museum of Science+Industry in Chicago, which can produce 300 toys per hour

Running 24/7, Santa would need 200 manufacturing lines to build one toy per child for his yearly Christmas delivery.

Manufacturing estimates assume that nine robots are equivalent to about 140 full-time workers. Therefore, Santa’s automated toy factory would be the equivalent of 112,085 elves working eight-hour shifts.

Cloud computing is another way to update North Pole operations. Of the companies that switched to cloud computing in 2013, 88 percent reported that using the cloud lowered their expenses. Fast forward to 2018, and 96 percent of businesses are using cloud computing, making it nearly essential for a digital North Pole.

With all the info in the cloud, Mr. and Mrs. Claus can get a break from the cold and snow by telecommuting from somewhere more tropical. Working virtually is not only more convenient, but it can be an operational advantage. Companies at which workers telecommute see a productivity boost that’s equivalent to a full day’s work.

Christmas Eve Deliveries

On Christmas Eve, Santa has a busy delivery schedule:

  • 22 million presents per hour
  • 365,000 presents per minute
  • 6,100 presents per second

Reindeer drones would be a smart way to update how gifts are delivered across the sky to children’s homes. 

To calculate the number of reindeer drones needed, we start with the assumption that 55 percent of the population lives in urban areas within an effective drone delivery range. This is based on delivery drones having a range of 10 miles due to the flight capacity to travel at 40 mph for 30 minutes. Therefore, delivering presents to 289 million kids during the night would take 12 million drones!

Drone delivery services are already on the market, and tech giants see it as the future of e-commerce fulfillment. UPS has been growing its drone airline since 2019 and is delivering prescriptions by drone in select locations. In 2020, Amazon received FAA approval for its drone delivery fleet. 

For Santa, drone delivery would be especially useful based on the sheer scale of his Christmas Eve operation. In just one night, he’s responsible for delivering 35 times as many boxes as Amazon ships in the U.S. each day and 24 times as many packages as UPS delivers in a day.

Just as NORAD’s Santa Tracker provides real-time location updates, releasing a Santa App could provide real-time updates about reindeer drone locations and gift delivery status. About 82 percent of consumers want proactive status updates about package deliveries, and a Santa app could be a comprehensive information portal.

What if the children weren’t very good this year?

We don’t have access to Santa’s data analytics dashboard. However, it certainly has a tally of how many good children will be getting a toy and how many bad children will be receiving a lump of coal.

This year’s ratio of good and bad children may be unknown, but we can calculate the production value if every child received a lump of coal. To get that number, we can multiply one lump of coal by 526 million children, and then multiply that by the density of coal (1g/cm3). 

This tells us that Santa needs 19,000 short tons of coal, which is 0.002375 percent of the country’s one billion-ton daily operations. To break that down into time, that would be 13 minutes of coal production.

We can only hope that, like Sally in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” most children “have been extra good this year.”

Santa’s Workshop goes virtual.

Santa isn’t alone in the daunting task of modernizing operations. In fact, 73 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs say that rapidly changing technology is their biggest challenge. However, implementing new technology can optimize workflows, reduce costs, and open up new customer experiences. After all, think of how far we’ve come from phone calls placed by an operator to today’s low-cost internet phone service with HD audio.

Learn more about howOoma is changing digital communications.

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