The recent call wait times that our customers have been experiencing are not acceptable. We sincerely apologise to customers who have had to spend so long to speak to someone and we thank them for their patience.
No airline’s contact centres were designed to be able to manage the record number of calls and complexity of queries for COVID-era travel, particularly when international travel is involved.
Our call volume has increased from an average of 7,500 calls a day to 14,000 calls a day, with calls on average taking 50 per cent longer to resolve than pre-COVID given the complexity of some itineraries across more than one airline where routes are re-opening and flights are re-starting at different times.
This is being driven by a combination of factors. The flexibility we’ve provided customers during the pandemic to defer bookings has meant that as travel normalises large numbers of people are wanting to use these bookings that are up to two years old. We also see large spikes in calls every time there is a change to travel conditions somewhere in the world, such as the announcement that New Zealand was opening up three months earlier than expected. Around two third of calls we receive relate to international travel.
The call centres are the only part of our business that grew during the pandemic. We’ve already added hundreds of staff to our call centres, and each month we are recruiting and training more people. By June this year, we’ll have increased staffing by 200 per cent (an increase of 750 people) within 12 months. It takes six weeks to train new call centre agents.
We have invested in technology to enable customers to manage their bookings and use flight credits via the website or app. While we understand that many people often want to talk to another person to resolve issues, about 60 per cent of the calls we receive could be resolved online, so we’re providing resources, including a series of ‘how-to’ videos, to help customers see how they can resolve their issues faster online.
Given the volume and the increased complexity of customer queries, it will take some time for call wait times to normalise, but we’re working every day to improve the experience for our customers.