Back in when it all started in the 1950’s they made do with a few telephone lines. Today the program involves YouTube videos, Facebook and Twitter feeds a multi-lingual, interactive, online dashboard, and an enterprise-grade contact centre solution to assist some 1,500 volunteers manning the phone lines.
“It all started in 1955 when a NORAD received a strange call and we were still known as AT&T back then,” said Jerry Loveless, director of Department of Defence programs for Avaya.
Click on the image below to access Santa Tracker
As the story goes, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, director of operations at then Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Centre, was by the red telephone when it started ringing on the eve of Christmas.
“Yes, Sir, this is Colonel Shoup,” he barked. There was silence on the other end of the line for several moments, until finally the small voice of a girl replied: “Are you really Santa Claus?”
The no-nonsense colonel answered: “Yes, I am. Have you been a good little girl?”
And from that day on NORAD has been answering calls from children…and their parents wanting to know just where Santa is.
The backend infrastructure has improved and grown steadily with the times, said Jerry Dotson, vice-president of Avaya government solution.
“The current infrastructure is based on our Contact Centre Elite Solution,” he said. “The volunteers essentially use the system which NORAD uses.”
The automated attendance system need to be robust to handle the volume of calls that suddenly pours in when the lines open, he explained.
For instance, in 2013, the NORAD Tracks Santa team received a record-breaking 117,371 calls.
In 2015, calls from all over the globe during a single 23-hour period set a new record of 141,000 calls, topping the 2014 record of 134,970.
Dotson and Loveless believe that record will be easily broken this year.
Starting at 2:01 a.m. EST on December 24, website visitors can watch Santa make preparations for his flight. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream videos on the website as Santa makes his way over various locations.
Then, at 6 a.m. EST, trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire about Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to email@example.com. Anytime on December 24, Windows Phone users can ask Cortana for Santa’s location, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa.
Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are also available in the Windows, Apple and Google Play stores, so parents and children can countdown the days until Santa’s launch on their smartphones and tablets.
Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+. Santa followers just need to type “@noradsanta” into each search engine to get started.
The NORAD Tracks Santa website – http://www.noradsanta.org/– now live. It is available in eight languages and features Santa’s North Pole Village, which includes a holiday countdown, games, activities and more.
“This is all about fun – for the kids and the NORAD personnel and volunteers taking part in the program – and spreading good cheer throughout the world on Christmas,” said Dotson.
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