Auckland, New Zealand, March 17, 2020 -- Spark says customers may be kept waiting after its call centres in the Philippines were closed temporarily as part of a lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
The closure of its call centres in the capital of Manila was a result of the Philippine government's action, not an identified case of Covid-19, Spark said.
In the meantime, customers will be directed to Spark's New Zealand-based call centre agents.
Call volumes were at normal levels on Tuesday morning, but customers were warned they may experience longer wait times than usual.
"As the Covid-19 situation develops we are focussed on ensuring the health and safety of all our people – including those working in New Zealand and our call centre agents offshore," said Grant McBeath, Spark's customer director.
"We are grateful to New Zealanders for their patience and understanding while we work through this situation, and we will keep our customers updated as the situation evolves."
Spark encouraged customers to log in to their MySpark app to access account details and make changes to their service, or visit their nearest Spark store.
"The geographical spread of Spark's customer care teams, with agents situated in multiple locations off-shore and multiple locations in New Zealand, as well as agents working from home, ensures diversity in Spark's call centre network and business continuity in unexpected situations such as the unprecedented disruption caused by Covid-19," the company said.
Vodafone does not have any call centres in the Philippines.
"We have a Business Continuity Plan action group set up locally, and are working closely with our international colleagues including offshore call centres to respond to the ever-changing impacts of Covid-19," said Vodafone spokeswoman Nicky Preston.
"Our contact centre contingency planning allows for work and calls to be diverted to different offices in New Zealand and India. We are confident in our ability to shut down our office sites without affecting the service we provide to our customers, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely."
Craig Young, chief executive of the Telecommunications Users Association, said most large global IT firms had call centres in the Philippines, along with India.
"The impact will be significant, particularly for the IT industry," he said.
On Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte widened a month-long lockdown in the capital region to contain an outbreak of the new coronavirus.
An "enhanced quarantine" of the island with a population of at least 57 million people will be implemented until April 12, Duterte said. Mainland Luzon will be on a strict home quarantine that the police and military will oversee, and workers must work from home to "significantly" limit movement, he said.
"Everyone must stay at home, leaving their houses only to buy food, medicine and other basics necessary for survival in the coming days," Duterte said.
The virus has infected at least 140 people in the Philippines and killed a dozen.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Wednesday, March 18, 2020
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