27 April 2020

“Unprecedented increase in call volumes”: A study into effective call handling during COVID-19

Research & analysis
We’re all searching for ways to connect with the people we can’t be with – and more than ever before, it’s the telephone that’s giving us the comfort that comes from the human voice.

In their recent article, ‘The Humble Phone Call Has Made a Comeback’, the New York Times reported on a remarkable increase in usage of the telephone, as recorded by leading telecommunications providers.

Verizon found they had a 50% increase in calls compared to their busiest period to date, and currently handling more than 800 million calls a day.

Within the piece, Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel – a representative of the agency that that oversees phone, television and internet providers – commented that “we’ve become a nation that calls like never before.” And another important piece in the Wall Street Journal highlighted how we’re all reaching for the phone because the voice is the only way to really understand how a person is feeling when we can’t see them face to face.


A tool with real potential

People across the globe are dialling not just to speak to their loved ones, but to contact the companies they put their trust in too. But despite this incredible increase in usage, it seems many businesses aren’t making the most of the opportunities presented by the telephone during this time.

We partnered with SM Audiences to conduct a COVID-19 business study – reaching out to SMEs of different sizes and sectors across North America and the UK to establish how they were reacting to the situation. One key area of this was the role the telephone is playing, and the results make it clear that it may not be being used to it’s full potential.

When questioned, only 42% of businesses believed the telephone was important to their business in the current climate, with only 35% saying they were focusing on using it as a marketing tool. Owners are choosing to devote resource to other forms of communication over their telephone – 51% focusing more on their website, compared to just 22% updating their phone messages. Given the incredible usage statistics reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, this is a clearly an opportunity that’s being overlooked.


Seizing the opportunity

While it’s evident the phone is in use, the study allowed us to uncover the reasons:

  1. Dealing with customer enquiries
  2. Advising customers that staff are working remotely
  3. Informing customers that their business is operating as usual

74% of businesses are using the telephone to keep in contact, while the main roles they see this tool playing are allowing them to stay connected to customers (56%), keeping people up to date with business changes or developments (51%), and providing much-needed reassurance and comfort (48%).

Yet these roles don’t just have to be fulfilled by the staff member on the end of the line. Specialist telephone messages like Auto Attendant, Out-of-Hours and Business Voicemails all have an important part to play in informing, connecting and reassuring people. By introducing these productions at key points in the caller experience, companies open up every possible channel of communication – seizing the additional opportunities the telephone presents to deliver the vital information customers are searching for.


The answer to the call

Right now, almost half of businesses are looking for guidance on how to best communicate with their customers – and it’s not as straightforward as simply handing them a telephone. Call management, routing and messaging are all essential in using this tool to its full effect to keep customer informed, engaged and coming back to a business for the long term, and this includes the application of Auto Attendant, Out-of-Hours and Business Voicemail productions.

Whether your staff are working from home or as usual, an effective call route demonstrates best practice in directing and handling enquiries, and utilises productions to inform, engage and reassure customers at every possible opportunity.

The people have spoken – and there’s no denying the vital role the phone is playing to the customer right now. It’s a tool that’s keeping companies, customers and staff together while we’re all working apart, and providing that essential voice contact we all need right now.


Related insights

Telephony Etiquette: The Best Practices for Professional Communication

Guides & explainers

Telephony Etiquette: The Best Practices for Professional Communication

We are exploring some of the best practices of telephony etiquette through audio branding.

The Power of Voice: How Audio Branding Can Enhance Customer Experience

Guides & explainers

The Power of Voice: How Audio Branding Can Enhance Customer Experience

Creating a cohesive brand voice across channels is the perfect way to build a deep connection with your customers.

The importance of audio branding in the digital age

Guides & explainers

The importance of audio branding in the digital age

In an era of information overload and shrinking attention spans, sound cuts through as an effective tool for communication.