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COVID-19: How caller habits have changed during lockdown

Impact of Coronavirus on call numbers header image

The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on businesses and enterprises around the whole world. As our country began to lock down in March and companies started to find new ways of working, there was a noticeable knock-on effect on the volume of customer service calls fielded by Moneypenny.

Our data shows that businesses were performing extremely well at the start of the pandemic in terms of the number of calls answered. In fact, in weeks 10 and 11 (weeks commencing March 2nd and March 9th), which marked the period just before lockdown, there were more calls taken than during the same period in 2019 – an increase of almost 20%.

Graph showing call volumes during Coronavirus lockdown

However, the coronavirus pandemic brought a sudden shift in how businesses operate, with many having to find new ways of working remotely. As a result, the rolling out of lockdown measures coincided with a notable decline in calls from week 12 onwards (w/c March 16th). By week 15 (April 6th), there were 18% fewer calls than during the same period in 2019.

This decline in caller numbers lasted for around four weeks until Easter, which marked a turning point, with call volumes beginning to rise once again. Easter is often known as a quieter period for call numbers, but interestingly, Easter 2020 showed an increase in calls in comparison to the year before, despite the pandemic.

After Easter, the data shows a steady but clearly positive trend showing call numbers increasing. During the week of Memorial Day, we fielded over 1000 more calls than in 2019, and after this point, call numbers had recovered to almost 95% of the same period in 2019 – a very positive result considering the continuing global uncertainty.

Fluctuations in call numbers are not unusual – in fact, 2019 saw much sharper fluctuations in the volume of calls, with more noticeable peaks and troughs. But it certainly seems that, despite the initial uncertainty of the pandemic, call numbers remain extremely healthy and continue to rise.

Which industries have flourished during lockdown?

The data also shows us which types of industries have experienced a spike in interest during the pandemic. There’s very little change when it comes to the best performing industries, with the same sectors appearing in the top 5 in both 2019 and 2020.

Image showing industries where call volumes flourished during Coronavirus lockdown

Businesses in the finance and insurance sectors saw the highest number of customer service calls during the lockdown period, after coming second to the construction industry over the same time frame in 2019, which slipped to fourth place this year. Law and legal services calls came second and third respectively, with healthcare being the fifth most popular call type over this period.

But although there has been no significant change to the five most popular industries, the coronavirus pandemic has seen others increase in popularity. It’s perhaps no surprise that medical businesses have seen an increase in customer calls, given the severity of the virus and concerns about the situation. Trade industries have all seen year on year increases in customer service calls, while retail has fallen out of the top ten during this period, that could coincide with the number of retail closures initially imposed during the lockdown.

Some other sectors have experienced unusual spikes in customer calls. For example, in week 14 (April 1st) there was a noticeably large spike in calls for import and export businesses, and week 13 (March 30th) saw a large spike in photography. Conversely, there were uncharacteristic slumps in calls to the energy sector (w/c June 8th) and social services (w/c March 2nd).

Industries that saw the fewest customer calls during the period of weeks 10-24 had a common theme of being considered ‘nice to have’ but perhaps less essential, and these included calls around sport and interior design.

Lockdown leads to longer calls

The length of time customers are spending on calls has also increased during the pandemic, largely due to callers having more time on their hands as well as seeking more reassurance given the changing and unpredictable climate. Our data indicates that the average length of a call across all industries during the period of weeks 10-24 was 76.6 seconds – which is around 13% longer than the previous year, an increase of just over 9 seconds.

Looking more closely at both the top and bottom industries, we can see that the average customer call during this time lasted 75.3 seconds – and in many cases, the average call time has actually been increasing as the pandemic has endured and the customers’ need to be heard has become even greater.

For example, in week 10, the average call time across the top 10 industries was 72.2 seconds. But this increased to 74.6 seconds by week 18, and 84.4 by week 24, which amounts to a 16% increase over the course of 14 weeks.

This increase in call length is noticeable across all of the top 10 sectors, with several exceeding the average by quite some margin. The finance, IT, and law sectors all saw average call lengths of 98.1, 78.3, and 76.4 seconds respectively, while calls about real estate were over 50% longer than the average across this period, at 112.2 seconds.

Overall, despite an initial decline in call volume at the start of lockdown, it’s clear that customer calls are as important as ever: call numbers soon increased as people got used to lockdown and customers wanted to talk for longer. And now the signs are even more positive, as call volumes have now bounced back to pre-COVID levels, showing that both customers and businesses have the resilience to get used to new situations quickly and offering the opportunity for even further growth through the second half of 2020.

As organizations continue to adapt and find new and less-traditional ways of operating, having effective customer communication solutions will be essential for industries as they move forward through the coronavirus pandemic and into the future. Make sure your business is recovery ready with our handy online quiz. 

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