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“Sorry, there is nobody to answer your call, please don’t leave a message.” I picked up my iPad yesterday to browse the latest Coronavirus news and was greeted with a familiar screen – the Ocado delivery hold screen. I was customer 19,456 out of 21,244 and was helpfully reassured that it would only be 2 hours before I got the chance to view my shopping trolley.

In the current situation, the world seems to be an endless series of queues; at one point it was physical queues to get into supermarkets or (if you were lucky) to pay at the tills. Then online queues for website access – whether for food shopping delivery or the Next sale (no really, people still need clothes!). While some of us are more tolerant than others when it comes queuing (and it has been said nobody can queue like us Brits!) the fact is that it is a miserable experience; not only for the customer but the call centre operative too – seeing that they have enough calls waiting to keep them busy for the next month. I hate to think of the traffic to government websites in the last couple of weeks to see FAQ’s and the latest information on how to handle Coronavirus.

Insurance is no different. In doing a little research for this blog, I visited a number of insurers via call centres, websites and Twitter feeds only to see a familiar message: ‘we are experiencing unprecedented numbers of enquiries with a more limited staff resource than usual, if possible please call or come back tomorrow’.  Whether we like it or not, this cries out to the customer in big capital letters, ‘sorry, there is nobody to take your call or answer your enquiry. Please don’t leave a message – we can’t cope’.

It goes without saying that this type of message is not something you want your customers to associate with your brand at a time of crisis. There are, of course, many ways to counter this and respond. Given my current focus, I cannot help but think there has never been a more important time for organisations to consider where emerging technologies, like smart speakers and voice, fit within their digital strategy?

When cancelling a recent meeting, a client let me know that unless I could set them up a virtual call centre that is fully compliant before next Friday, they couldn’t really talk. I responded to say that while I couldn’t necessarily solve all of those problems, it was worth considering that in the space of two weeks I could deploy a voice app containing many non-personal queries and responses that customers could access 24/7, instantly. No queueing, no waiting, no friction; just ask your smart speaker.

As well as the customer satisfaction of having easy access to information in this way, there are also other wide-ranging benefits. Two that spring to mind instantly are reduction of the number of ‘routine’ queries to call centres at a time when they are stretched, and the fact that it allows delivery of information with absolute consistency; the best response, every time – which should please the regulatory bodies.

However, the naysayers keep telling me that the world isn’t ready to embrace this technology yet. But now, in light of recent events that the world really wasn’t prepared for, wouldn’t it be good to take some action on something that can help people, help your business and is actually within your control?

Until then, I guess I’ll just keep queueing.

If you read this and think your business could be ready to leverage the value of ‘voice’ please contact me to discuss on

About this author

Andy Searle

Andy Searle

Consultant - Insurance

Andy is an energetic and ambitious strategic leader with over 18 years’ experience in general insurance. He is a subject matter expert in a wide range of innovative and transformational technologies. Andy combines his extensive knowledge of the insurance market with dynamic thinking and awareness ...