May 18, 2020

The corona crisis means the busy signal at the call center never ends

AI-powered assistants are taking some strain off of seriously overloaded customer-service lines.

Do you ever wish you could listen to the hold music on a customer-service call a little longer?

Great news, ya weirdo: Up and down the phone lines, from state unemployment centers to travel and business services, call centers are jammed.

Press 0 to keep talking to yourself

Many call center operations are outsourced to India and the Philippines — but as Vox noted, lockdowns in those countries forced services to go remote or shut down entirely. 

For US customers, the time difference means things can get weird. Their calls ring on the other side of the end of the globe in the early morning — when talkative roosters are known to crow in the background.

For the US workers on the other end of the line, the job is endless: One call-center worker in Pennsylvania told The Wall Street Journal that she works ~14 hours a day during the week, and another 7.5 on weekend days.

A research firm estimates that the industry is operating around 80% of full-strength, but help is on the way.

AI means robocallers are good now?

IBM offered businesses and public agencies a free trial of an AI-powered assistant that answers common customer questions. Traffic to the assistant was up 40% from February to April.

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