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How COVID-19 could kill the call centre

Coronavirus causes record spike in travel industry customer queries

A massive surge in the use of messaging channels may be the death knell for off-shore call centres, including those used in the travel industry. 


New research revealed by AI company, LivePerson, shows that Australia is leading a change in the way brands and consumers interact, with data showing a six-fold (5.6x) rise in the use of messaging services like WhatsApp, SMS and Facebook Messenger for business-client communications since May 2019. 


In its first 'Customer Conversation Report', LivePerson found that the volume of messaging grew by 15% each month and is currently 77% higher than at the start of the year. 


With messaging volume surging by 20% in one week and 39% in the three weeks between mid-March and early April as call centres closed, the report also suggests that COVID-19 sped up this increase.  



According to the research, WhatsApp conversations are 3.6 times higher than at the start of 2020 (and growing by 6% per week), In-App communication is 2.8 times higher (and growing 5% each week) and Facebook Messenger chats are 1.2 times higher than in January. 


“Our data reveals that the COVID-19 lockdown has seen take up of messaging channels skyrocket as companies were first overwhelmed by surges in customer enquiries, and then disrupted by the closure of call centres and store fronts due [to] health and safety concerns,” LivePerson Asia Pacific (APAC) general manager Andrew Cannington said.


“However, this shift from voice to messaging-based customer conversations has not happened overnight. 


“The reality is that most of us don’t want to pick up the phone and wait on hold. We’d rather use SMS, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger when it suits us, like we do with family and friends.”


Mr Cannington added that smart brands were picking up on this, “and those that haven’t risk being left behind”.


“In fact, we predict that most, if not all of the companies that have pivoted to messaging in response to the pandemic will embrace it permanently,” he remarked. 


”This is good news for consumers who are increasingly seeking the convenience and immediacy of messaging conversations.”


The report also flagged a record number of travel sector conservations before travel restrictions began in earnest in April. These were led by customers seeking information on cancellations, flight refunds and credits.


Despite the tough times, Cannington said innovations in communications were taking place. 


Brands are realising that their staff can work from home when needed, that technology can help them better do their jobs and that customers prefer engaging with them using messaging instead of a telephone call,” he stated.


“Another potential ramification of this shift from voice to messaging-based customer service could be the creation of thousands of local jobs...”


Do these findings ring true for you?


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Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 24 June 2020

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