The author is a volunteer Santa and performs the role at Playgroups, children’s hospitals, community functions, and corporate events with all proceeds going to children’s cancer research. He has raised over $20,000.
When I am dressed as Santa and entering a business, I am greeted by name – every time. Everyone knows my name. I am not looked at as being a doddering old fat man who needs a haircut and a beard trim, or someone who is a foreigner without a valid visa. The grumpiest of employees will come up for a chat with welcoming smiles.
Santa enjoys priority as others move aside to allow me through the queue, I enjoy the VIP treatment. I am personally escorted to function room where my arrival is announced with fanfare and bells ringing. As I enter – crowds hush as I raise my hands and tilt my head toward the North Pole.
I am in total charge of the room. I can even make the people sing silly songs (try that in any other suit!)
Toddlers run up to me and throw their arms around my legs – completely ignoring stranger danger advice. Some babies are scared of the big fella, some love playing with the beard. True believers hover around not wanting to show too much enthusiasm as it may not be cool, but you know they want to have a hug and a cuddle too.
Children are happy to sit on Santa’s knee and receive a gift while Mums and Dads take happy snaps. Even the parents enjoy the fun of sitting on Santa’s knee for photographs.
You see, Santa has been part of the scene for hundreds of years, and is recognised as a jolly nice fellow from the North Pole. He doesn’t care who you are- he loves and accepts everyone and everyone loves him. I feel great, valued, and I feel important.
Now, let me change out of the Santa suit, back into my normal clothes. I am the same person, enjoy the same love of giving, same love of children and spreading joy to people. Do I get the same welcome? Do I command the same respect from staff? Does everyone know my name? Do I jump the queue because I am me? No, without the red suit, I am a mere customer and my experience in dealing with your business is back to normal. What a pity.
Put an elf on the shelf in your business, survey your customers while they wait in the queue. Ask them how important they feel doing business with you. You may find you need a Santa!
Treat each of your customers with the regard and respect that you do your friendly neighbourhood Santa- and you could find yourself some life-long customers.
Mark Horwood is CEO of Captivate Connect which assists businesses in improving their Caller Experience.