This year families won’t be able to meet with Santa in person to share their wish lists or ask if they are on the naughty or nice list, but they can text him at 844-YO-SANTA (844-967-2682), his toll-free text line. Santa has been texting from this phone number for the past five years with the help of Zipwhip, the inventors of landline and toll-free texting. Kids and their families are invited to text in to the phone number in nearly any language, and they’ll get a personalized response from Santa.
Santa has received millions of texts from families since 2015, and nearly 10,000 on the first day of December alone. This year, with COVID-19 eliminating many of the interactive events that families usually take part in around the holidays, Zipwhip also created an online holiday workshop where families can watch videos of Santa answering his most frequently asked questions, listen to his holiday playlist, download games, take quizzes and even get a copy of Santa’s favorite cookie recipe.
844-YO-SANTA is powered by Santa himself, of course, but he also got some help from a high-school student in Seattle and Zipwhip’s youngest employee named Avery Wagar. Using Zipwhip’s API, Wagar built an interactive chatbot that sends customized responses to the thousands of texts that will come in between now and December 25. So rather than receiving a general auto reply, families will get custom responses to questions for Santa like, “Am I on the nice list?” or “What’s your favorite cookie?” The Santa line uses Natural Language Processing, which detects differing patterns within text and groups them into categories. Wagar and the team trained the language processor with the types of texts they anticipate families will send in and is using that to guide Santa’s custom responses.
“This felt like the perfect chance to use Zipwhip’s API to make the messaging experience richer and more interactive,” said Wagar. “I know the holidays this year are going to be different for families, and hopefully a text conversation with Santa can lift people’s spirits.”
And since Santa operates around the world, families can send texts in 52 different languages and Santa will respond in the same. Zipwhip uses a language translator that sends every inbound and outbound message through a language checkpoint, which validates if the text came in English and, if not, converts it to the source language and adjusts outbound replies.
“844-YO-SANTA started as a simple and fun way to point out that everybody – even Santa – prefers to text. We had no idea how popular it would become and that the line would receive hundreds of thousands of texts every year,” said John Lauer, CEO of Zipwhip. “This year, Santa’s toll-free text line is more powerful than ever, both because texting has become one of our only reliable and safe forms of communication during COVID, and because we’ve enhanced the messaging experience so dramatically. With our chatbot AI using Microsoft LUIS, you can now carry out conversations as if you’re truly talking to Santa.”
Like Santa, many businesses have had to transition to contactless interactions with staff and customers due to COVID-19 restrictions. Using Zipwhip’s software applications, integrations and API, businesses can engage their customers and drive growth through texting, despite mandatory social distancing measures. Zipwhip offers powerful texting features for businesses of all sizes and on any existing landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number.
As part of Santa’s texting program, this year Zipwhip will donate $1 per text for the first 5,000 it receives in December to Seattle Children’s Hospital to help pay for toys and supplies for patients and their caregivers.
Zipwhip was the first company to enable texting on existing business phone numbers, and today is the world’s leading business-texting software and API provider. More than 35,000 companies use Zipwhip to increase customer engagement and drive growth through texting on their existing landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number. Intuitive cloud-based software, an enterprise-grade API and direct network connectivity mean businesses can use any computer or mobile device to securely and reliably reach their customers, every time. Your customers are only a text away: https://www.zipwhip.com.