Some Thoughts on Comfort Calls

I have been doing
my Comfort Calls
for about a week.

This was the brightest and best idea I’ve had since becoming PGH Santa.

But even the brightest have dark spots, and even the best get disappointed.

Let’s start with the good stuff (I love bullet points!):

  • I feel the Spirit of Christmas
  • The kids LOVE it!
  • The parents LOVE it!
  • My studio set up is SWEET!
  • I’m developing a customer base
  • I’m getting some excellent feedback
  • I’m learning a ton
  • I don’t have to wear boots

Now, while I love bullet points, I also LOVE to expound. So, let’s dive into these positive pieces:

I FEEL THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS–this is huge. I cannot talk to these kids and see their joy without feeling. And that feeling is GREAT! I know the source of that feeling. And He, the true meaning of Christmas, blesses abundantly those who serve and love as He would. Perhaps I will never receive another blessing for this service than that feeling…

Worth it.

THE KIDS LOVE IT–I guess this is a given, but listen to some comments from parents:
“the smile on his face said it all”
“she was responding very happily”
“they were so excited”
“he talked about it for days”
“my son said he was so excited he couldn’t even ‘talk well'”
“you have brought them so much joy”
“the kids had the biggest smiles”
“you made my baby’s day”
“they felt very special because it was meant just for them”
Any questions?

THE PARENTS LOVE IT–there is nothing like seeing your child happy. The beauty of the technology is that I don’t even see the parents for the most part, and that’s actually a really good thing! But I can imagine them sitting on the other end of that camera watching their child have a wonderful experience. Because I’m a parent. And I know what that feels like. The descriptive word used most by parents after the call is “amazing”. I do what I do for the kids, but the parents are the gateway, and without them I’m a lonely Santa.

MY STUDIO SETUP IS SWEET–I have spent a little money on the studio setup, and the Comfort Calls have expedited my process of going virtual. In less than a week I have purchased a laptop, five lights, a bluescreen, a camera, and a microphone. My old Chromebook also plays a role. And the background I have created so far is awesome (it still has a ways to go!)–and using video editing software is totally fun. My older kids look at the setup and visions of YouTube stardom dress their dreams. My younger ones look at my transformed office in wonder, and then come to my side of the desk to look at themselves on camera in a place they have never been.

I’M DEVELOPING A CUSTOMER BASE–every single Comfort Call I have done has asked for information on my seasonal performances. These will be the customers I hope to see on a yearly basis (or maybe even more!) These are the customers whose kids I hope to send off to college. These are the customers who I hope will think of PGH Santa when they think about the experience of lifting another. And the Comfort Call that lifted them and their children at this trying time.

I’M GETTING SOME EXCELLENT FEEDBACK–not only are the parents gushing over an amazingly handsome and talented Santa Claus, but they are also providing great feedback on sound quality, lighting, clarity, setup processes, lag times, and more. All solicited, of course, in a quick survey I send them shortly after the call. And this is my demographic–what they say means a lot to me!

I’M LEARNING A TON–I come right out and say it on my website, the Comfort Calls are a win-win. And I think I win harder… this is basically a free focus group, a free trial run. The cost of the product, to me, is free (a little time and energy is all). And I’m figuring out how to run the tech. I’m learning how to have an eye for the shot, how critical lighting is, how long it takes to prep, how to keep track of pertinent customer information, the best process for signing people up, how to maintain a calendar, how long it takes to recover from a call and prep for the next. These skills and learnings will be critical to the way I want to operate this winter.

I DON’T HAVE TO WEAR BOOTS–’cause Santa’s boots are NOT comfortable! Actually, maybe they are, but anyone who knows me knows that I rarely wear shoes–On Sunday to church, and even then I wear slides in the car and slip on a pair of loafers upon arriving at the building. Not only do I not wear boots for the calls, but sometimes I am still in my pajamas from the waist down!

All of these positives make it very easy to gloss over some of the challenges. And after reviewing all those wonderful benefits to doing Comfort Calls, I can’t think of any of the drawbacks anymore!

Except one.

I have a 40% no-show rate. That’s right, 40% of the Comfort Call bookings are no-shows. It is my greatest disappointment. I’m pretty sure that this is the result of offering the visits for free–there’s no buy-in. Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind the extra rest when an appointment is missed, or even the wasted time when a customer doesn’t show. But I worry about the kids. Their parents felt strong enough, initially, about the need for the call to take time to fill in all the details on the booking form. But due to a clerical or calendaring error, or just because mom or dad forgot (it happens, trust me) the kids might miss out on a powerful encounter to help in dealing with the anxieties and inconsistencies of our world at this time.

It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow…

Until I remember the faces, the happiness, the excitement… I watch the Christmas Spirit palpably grow and fill their space. It pours through the camera and the speakers, and engulfs me in warmth and peace.

The calls are for those on the other end of the connection. Not necessarily for those who didn’t connect in the first place. And if I can help just one little boy or girl feel that peace and joy for just one little moment?

Worth it.

Published by Jonny Kigin

Jonny is tall, dark, handsome, flowing locks, six-pack abs, loves cats and...wait, what is this for?

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