Jerry DotsonDecember 18, 2018

Where in the World Is Santa?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, the contact center was quiet,
Not an agent was stirring, not even a pilot.
The vacation requests were logged by the copy room with care, 
In hopes that a holiday break soon would be there.
When from the phone lines a call rang out clearly,
And Colonel Harry Shoup answered it cheerily. 
On the other line, a small voice asked with glee,
“Where is Santa now?” Did Shoup hear that correctly?
A misprinted ad gave children hope that dark night.
It gave them the number to track Santa’s flight. 
But instead of a store, the kids all called NORAD
And more than 60 years later, it’s not just a fad.

Not a fad, indeed! From that simple mistake, a tradition was born. The NORAD Tracks Santa program began in 1955 after a youngster dialed a misprinted Santa hotline number and reached a commander at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The commander didn’t want to spoil the holiday for callers expecting to reach Santa, so he had his staff provide updates on Santa’s travels. 63 years later, the program is still going strong and is a highlight for young and old around the world every Christmas Eve.

Avaya’s mission-critical Customer Engagement technology, which supports the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base, helps volunteers carefully monitor Santa’s travels and ensure his safety using radar, satellites, planes, and Santa Cams strategically positioned worldwide. Volunteers share that information with callers as Santa soars through the night sky.

Just as Santa checks his list twice and carefully reviews his workshop in preparation for Christmas, Avaya is working hard to ensure that its industry-leading Customer Engagement technology is ready to help set a record at the 63rd annual NORAD Tracks Santa, scheduled to begin at 4 a.m. MST on Dec. 24 and end on 12 a.m. MST, Christmas morning.

During the 20-hour period in 2017, 1,643 hotline volunteers, including Avaya staff, answered a record 126,103 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa 1-877 HI-NORAD hotline. The NORAD Tracks Santa website, available in eight languages, received 18 million visitors. And 1.5 million people asked their Alexa devices “Hey, Alexa, where’s Santa?” We expect that these numbers will increase this year, and our contact center tech is ready to handle it.

The same Avaya Government solutions used by NORAD Tracks Santa is also deployed by other government agencies. As a result, it has been extensively tested by the Department of Defense Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) and is certified to be Santa-ready. Avaya’s industry-leading contact center solutions handle millions of customer calls, web chats, and texts around the world each day, serving the largest banks, health systems and airlines.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website features family-friendly games, videos and information about Santa. Details about the big guy’s travels will also be available on Dec. 24 through social media, including YouTubeTwitter, and Instagram.

We hope for another record-setting year for NORAD Tracks Santa and a delightful experience for each and every caller and volunteer. As we know, each call matters – whether it’s an eager child impatiently waiting for that perfect gift from Santa; a Navy officer on an aircraft carrier sending birthday greetings to his grandfather; a weary traveler checking the web for a flight status; or a customer calling a bank’s call center agent to see if a check cleared. All interactions count. Every experience matters. We are proud to serve so many, including the NORAD Tracks Santa program.


Jerry Dotson

Jerry Dotson is the Vice President for Avaya Public Sector. Dotson oversees the design and implementation of communication services to support the various operations of DoD, Civilian, Intel, and SLED  customers.

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