Attack Aftermath: Call Centers Quiet–for How Long?

Stamford, CT—As you would expect, call centers throughout the country were eerily quiet in the hours following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Mailers contacted by CATALOG AGE estimate that their call volume was down as much as 95%–and many worry that business won’t pick up for weeks.

“During the first half of the day yesterday, our phones quit ringing,” says Rebecca Pierce, director of marketing for Idea Art, a cataloger of specialty papers. “In the afternoon, it picked up.” On Wednesday, the day after the attacks, call volume was “a little slow, but the phones are ringing at least.”

The 800-number for Terry Precision Bicycles, located in Macedon, NY, was down for several hours following the attacks, says vice president Paula Dyba. Once service was restored, call volume was down about 50%, she estimates. David Chaimson, director of marketing for audio software manufacturer/mailer Sonic Foundry, says volume was about 60% lower than expected. And Bill Heyman, co-owner of Supreme Audio, which sells audio gear to dance instructors, describes the phones after the attacks as “virtually silent.”

“I have no idea when things will pick up,” Heyman adds, echoing many other marketers, as well as economists, who are predicting everything from continued economic sluggishness in the U.S. through the first quarter of 2002 to a worldwide recession.

“I suspect there will be a fall-off in our business lasting a few days to a few weeks, depending on the type of retaliation that’s taken,” says Darryle Scott, president of Venus Swimwear. “All our plans are preliminary.”

“It’s day by day right now,” agrees Idea Art’s Pierce. “Of course, our hopes are that the economy doesn’t fail anymore and that we can continue to mail at same level, but we’ll have to look at it day by day.”

But Galls, which sells equipment to firefighters, police officers, and other public-safety professionals, could see a slight uptick in business. “Usually we would see increased business after these tragedies,” says Tim O’Malley, vice president of advertising, “but with the poor economy many [customers] are controlled by severely slashed budgets. Still there may be a reallocation into security and safety areas after Tuesday’s events.”

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