Technology

Call centres could be the next casualty of COVID-19, suggests new report

The end could be nigh for call centres, with new data highlighting that Australia is leading a global digital transformation in the way brands and consumers interact.

According to LivePerson’s inaugural Customer Conversation Report, there has been a near six-fold increase in Aussies using messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and SMS to communicate with brands since May 2019.

The study found that the volume of messaging is growing by 15 per cent each month and is currently 77 per cent higher than at the start of the year.

The data collected by LivePerson also provides evidence that COVID-19 has accelerated this shift, with messaging volume spiking by 20 per cent in one week and 39 per cent in the three weeks between mid-March and early April when global call centres closed and lockdown measures were announced.

WhatsApp conversation volumes are 3.6 times greater than they were at the start of the year, and are growing by six per cent each week; in-app conversations are growing five per cent per week, and are 2.8 times higher than January; and Facebook Messenger conversations surged in April before settling at 1.2 times higher than the start of the year (now growing by one per cent each week).

Globally, the LivePerson data also highlighted a record number of conversations taking place in the travel sector as consumers sought information, cancellations, flight refunds and credits in mid-March, before engagement dropped sharply in April once global travel restrictions set in.

LivePerson’s general manager for the Asia-Pacific region, Andrew Cannington, said the way people want to communicate with brands is changing, and that COVID-19 has sped up this transition.

“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 storefronts due health and safety concerns,” he said.

“However, this shift from voice to messaging-based customer conversations has not happened overnight. It has been driven by consumer demand for things to be done differently.

“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.”

Cannington said smart brands are 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 said.

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


Featured image: iStock/Chainarong Prasertthai

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