Customer expectations in Australia and New Zealand have increased by close to 60% since February, ranking higher than the average in Europe (57%). 

However, 54% of leaders in Australia and New Zealand reported a decrease in customer service budgets compared to 2019 – a stark contrast to the global average, where customer service budgets saw a 56% increase this year. 

The new research, conducted by customer engagement software, Freshworks polled 1,500 global customer experience leaders, including 200 in ANZ. The research aimed to determine how COVID-19 has impacted customer service teams.

In line with increasing customer expectations, overall contact volumes have also risen. In ANZ, contact volumes have increased by close to 60%, with customers favouring telephone calls (79%), live chat and messaging (74%) as well as social media (74%). 

The top three challenges faced by customer service leaders in the ANZ throughout the pandemic have been: operating with reduced staff (41%), tracking productivity and performance (38%) and making process changes on technology platforms (38%). 

The top tools used in ANZ amid the pandemic were chat and messaging, self-service customer portal, collaboration tools, customer-facing AI-chatbots and cloud-hosted customer service software. When asked, 44% of customer service leaders worldwide chose live chat and messaging as the most important tool to maintain service levels through the crisis. For most, normalcy is not expected to return until mid-next year. Freshworks Australia general manager, Sreelesh Pillai said throughout the pandemic, reality has been altered, however, some things don’t change – customers remain the lifeblood of many businesses. 

“Among rising customer expectations and often decreasing budgets, technology has emerged as the leading driver of maintaining quality customer experience. This faith in technology is reflected in the investments we’re seeing in live chat and messaging, customer service platforms and automated chatbots,” he said.