As the end of the third national lockdown nears, franchises must prepare for a dramatic and sustained influx of customer enquiries, according to research from Moneypenny.
Latest figures from the telephone answering and live chat provider show that during the first lockdown (26 March – 1 June 2020), telephone enquiries to businesses fell by 49% compared with pre-lockdown figures.
However in the weeks that followed, there was a sustained demand that continued to grow each week as customers purchased, hired and sought consultations again.
In the week after restrictions were lifted in 2020, customer telephone enquiries were up 41% on the weekly average seen throughout the lockdown. These levels continued to rise by another 24% over the following seven weeks.
By the end of July 2020, call volume was just 7% lower than 2019’s seasonal average, despite the fact that non-essential retail didn’t reopen until 15 June. This suggests that customers were ready to spend with businesses, and were preparing to do so.
Interestingly, during the second lockdown (4 November to 2 December 2020), there was just a 5% drop in telephone demand compared to pre-lockdown and an uplift of 2% the week after. This suggests it was ‘business as usual’ by this stage, as companies and consumers adapted to the changed circumstances.
Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny said: “This data shows just how turbulent the last year has been for businesses. With rules and restrictions changing so often, it has been difficult to anticipate and meet consumer demand.
“The data following lockdown two suggests that volumes will be more consistent as this lockdown ends – but with summer approaching and non-essential retail and personal care facilities such as hairdressers and beauty salons having been closed for so long, there will be a huge amount of pent up demand.”
She added: “Now the roadmap out of lockdown is in place, confidence is increasing which signals a particularly busy few months on the horizon.
“Franchises must be able to take this demand in their stride and ensure that any lockdown quick-fixes that were put in place regarding customer care or communication, have now been resolved.”
This is particularly sage advice as earlier this year, Moneypenny reported that 85% of people think businesses are using Covid as an excuse for long call and live chat wait times – rather than putting adequate customer service support in place.
Joanna concluded: “Almost a year into the pandemic, consumers expect businesses across all sectors to have adapted and be able to prioritise excellent customer care. Any that are still missing calls, or with long call and live chat waiting times, are essentially telling customers that they’re not important, which will lead to lost revenue and tarnished reputations.
“They must take remedial action quickly. Meeting demand and ensuring a positive, timely, professional and efficient first impression is imperative to business recovery once restrictions are lifted.”