Amazon's customer call centers are facing temporary shutdowns due to COVID-19, causing hours of wait times and a rise in complaints (AMZN)

Amazon Fulfillment Center

  • Some of Amazon’s customer support call centers are dealing with temporary closures to comply with work-from-home restrictions around the world amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • That’s leading to unusually long hold times and a rise in customer complaints.
  • Amazon’s spokesperson told Business Insider that there have been “temporary adjustments to our support options” due to the changes caused by the coronavirus.
  • The coronavirus is prompting more companies to adopt automated customer service software.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A number of Amazon call centers around the world have experienced some form of shutdowns in recent weeks as governments around the world put restrictions on coming into work to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Business Insider has learned. 

The change has caused unusually long hold times for Amazon customers looking to speak with a service agent, and a growing chorus of complaints as they couldn’t get problems solved by automated solutions.

Most closures are temporary, and changing by the day, as rules around work restrictions are shifting constantly depending on the region. Some of the call center agents are working from home now, but they haven’t been able to meet the surge in call volume, as Amazon is seeing a huge increase in orders during the pandemic.

In an email to Business Insider, Amazon’s representative said there have been “temporary adjustments to our support options” because of the government-mandated work restrictions related to the coronavirus. The person said customers can go to Amazon’s help page to get more support.

“We are working hard to provide support to customers while also helping to ensure the safety of Customer Service Associates, including complying with government regulations and social distancing requirements related to COVID-19,” the statement said. “This has resulted in temporary adjustments to our support options.”

The change comes at a time when the work-from-home mandate is issued in a growing number of US states and countries around the world following the coronavirus outbreak. Just this week, Amazon’s home state of Washington issued a strict “stay-at-home” order, while India, where a large customer service workforce is based, has started a nationwide three-week coronavirus lockdown.

But it also shows how Amazon was caught off-guard by the pandemic and unprepared for the potential work disruptions. Besides the customer service issues, Amazon is also dealing with a supply chain lockdown, long shipment delays, and a variety of worker safety issues as coronavirus spreads across the country.

‘Unacceptable’

Amazon customers are not happy about the lack of response. On social media, it’s easy to spot complaints by Amazon shoppers saying there’s effectively “zero” customer support in some parts of the world.

“Amazon the company I have relied upon for years cannot handle a crisis,” one person wrote on Twitter. “I understand a slowdown, but ZERO customer service is unacceptable.”

Another person tweeted, “Wow, Amazon isn’t taking customer service calls right now. No work-at-home call center agents? Really?”

Some customers said they were able to reach the customer agent by phone, but wasn’t too happy about the experience.

Amazon isn’t the only company experiencing this problem. Companies most affected by the coronavirus, like airlines, are also dealing with long hold times, driving more of them to adopt automated customer service solutions, according to a report by VentureBeat. 

For example, LivePerson, a software company that makes an automated messaging platform for customers like Virgin Atlantic, saw its overall conversation volume increase 20% over the past month. Airlines and hotels saw the biggest jumps, with an uptick of 96% and 130%, respectively, the report said.

The adoption of automated customer service is only expected to increase, according to research firm Gartner. It says up to 25% of online transactions will be supported by virtual assistants in 2022, up from the current 2% level.

“A competitive landscape of virtual assistant (VA) providers has emerged, offering platforms that target different VA use cases, applications and industry verticals,” Gartner said in a report.

Still, for Amazon customers that need more hands-on support, the choice seems limited for now. Amazon’s help account on Twitter apologized to some customers for not being available by phone. Instead, it recommended customers to use social media channels or find answers at Amazon’s FAQ page.

SEE ALSO: Amazon sent guests of its canceled robotics conference $600 Moncler jackets, even as its army of warehouse workers have been fighting for better conditions amid the virus outbreak

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