For this week’s blog I thought I would share a customer success story that was recently completed by our marketing team.
Each year millions of children send letters to Santa Claus describing what they would like for Christmas. The majority of these letters arrive between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they all must be processed very quickly within Santa’s North Pole Operations (NPO) during the final preparation phase for gift delivery on Christmas Eve.
“We have analytics and modeling through which we predict the quantity and types of gifts needed for each region of the world,” said Jane Holiday, VP of Gift Distribution. “But we need the confirmation contained within the letters before we can finalize our distribution strategy.”
NPO has historically used a large team of elves to manually process this incoming mail, but with volumes steadily rising each year, they found they were pulling more and more elves away from their core business of making toys in order to meet their SLAs.
“We considered running programs to incent children to mail their letters earlier, say in September, October or November,” said Michael Noel, Director of Mail Operations, “but we learned through test groups that the effort needed to generate a measurable result was too great.”
In 2010 NPO turned to Pitney Bowes for recommendations on how to help streamline and automate their incoming mail process.
“We immediately saw that an incoming Vantage™ mail sorter could help NPO tremendously,” said Clint Dally, Pitney Bowes VP Sortation Solutions. “Although it is a very unique operation, our flexible platform was able to help streamline NPO’s operations in ways that they had not even imagined.”
For example, utilizing handwriting analysis software the Vantage™ sorter is able to read the return address to identify which child each letter is from. This information is matched against NPO’s Naughty and Nice database, and all letters from naughty children are immediately outsorted. For the nice children, letters are separated by age, sex and region of the world to facilitate faster downstream processing. The Vantage also uses its selective opener to remove an additional processing step.
In 2010 NPO installed a single Vantage sorter as a pilot. “We knew we would ultimately need many additional sorters in order to handle our mail volumes,” said Noel, “but we also have a lot of tradition here in the North Pole, so we knew we would need to prove the concept before making a larger investment.”
“One of our concerns when we first met with NPO was to ensure that we could effectively support the systems, considering that they would be installed in such a remote area,” said Dally. “But our innovative new service capabilities, including remote SiteVue™ technology and diagnostics, made a good support plan possible.”
The 2010 pilot was wildly successful, so in the summer of 2011 Pitney Bowes installed 20 additional Vantage sorters in preparation for the upcoming holiday season. NPO has reduced the staff needed to process these incoming letters by 87%, in addition to increasing child identification accuracy
“We couldn’t be happier with the solutions and support we have received from Pitney Bowes,” said Holiday. “They really took the time to understand our operations and to analyze how the processes we were setting up could have a positive impact on our total operations.”
For those of you who believe in Santa Claus… keep believing. And for the rest of us a friendly disclaimer that Santa Claus is not a PB customer, even though we would love having him.