Call centres could be the next casualty of COVID-19 as new data highlights that Australia is leading a global digital transformation in the way brands and consumers interact.
New data released by LivePerson in its inaugural Customer Conversation Report shows a near six-fold (5.6x) increase in Australians using messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and SMS to communicate with brands since May 2019, with the volume of messaging growing by 15 per cent each month and currently 77 per cent higher than the start of the year.
The LivePerson data 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. In addition:
- 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 1 per cent each week).
Commenting on the data, LivePerson’s general manager for the Asia Pacific (APAC) 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 store fronts due health and safety concerns,” Cannington 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.
“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. This is good news for consumers who are increasingly seeking the convenience and immediacy of messaging conversations.”
The LivePerson data also highlights the varied impact of COVID-19 across industries:
- superannuation conversations spiked by 352 per cent from 1 March to 31 March as a result of the Australian Government’s announcement of the early release of super on 22 March, with conversations also increasing after 20 April – the first day that it could be accessed
- insurance conversations almost doubled (growing 94 per cent) from 16 February to 22 March, as people sought clarification on policy details and payment options
- education conversations surged by 246 per cent in early February following the announcement of travel restrictions for international students before returning to normal levels.
Globally, the LivePerson data also highlights 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.
Telecommunications companies also dealt with a surge of enquiries related to connection issues and requests for service information as millions moved to work-from-home and home-based learning.
“This period has been really tough for brands and their customer contact staff but it’s resulting in innovation. 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,” said Cannington.
“Another potential ramification of this shift from voice to messaging-based customer service could be the creation of thousands of local jobs, as companies consider making their temporary moves away from offshore call centres to locally-based messaging agents permanent.”
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