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Online customer service representative help fight COVID-19 by Jin Ling,July 13, 2020 Adjust font size:

In late January, Taobao, Alibaba Group’s e-commerce marketplace, and travel service platform Fliggy became overwhelmed with inquiries about orders for face masks and changes to bookings, respectively, as the COVID-19 outbreak got worse and strict prevention and control measures began to be implemented across China.

On the morning of Jan. 24, 55-year-old Taobao online customer service representative Ye Suzhen logged onto her work system as usual and encountered a wave of inquiries from customers who were asking why face masks that they had ordered had not been delivered yet.

Ye began chatting with up to 20 people at a time and did not finish her work until 11:00 p.m. She answered more than 100 inquiries related to mask orders that had been placed recently during her shift.

On Jan. 27, Ye noticed that the State Council had extended the Lunar New Year holiday as part of the COVID-19 prevention and control efforts. Later that day, Fliggy began urgently recruiting part-time online customer service representatives because requests for refunds and changes to itineraries surged by five to six times the usual rate, and the company turned to Taobao for help.

Ye has been a Taobao online customer service representative for eight years and understood Fliggy’s dilemma. She immediately applied to work for them as well.

The experienced customer service representative stated: “Customers must feel anxious when they are waiting for answers to their questions online. I am glad to be able to do whatever I can to help at this critical moment.”

Ye received a job offer from Fliggy soon after she applied, accepted it, and completed a short online training program shortly after. She decided to work there two hours a day after she finished her Taobao shift.

Ye’s team was very busy at the start of the outbreak. The Civil Aviation Administration of China and the nation’s airlines were changing their policies as the pandemic evolved, and a new wave of customer inquiries would come in every time something changed. The customer service representative helped more than 150 people a day during the worst period of infection in China.

Ye returned to working a total of eight hours a day as the situation began to stabilize and pressure decreased on Taobao and Fliggy, and began offering counselling to people with disabilities in her spare time.

The volunteer underwent spinal tumor surgery in 2006 and became a wheelchair user at the age of 41. She began learning psychology in 2017 and earned a counselor certification. Ye launched a special online service in 2018 and has provided counseling to over 100 people since, 80 percent of whom have some type of disabilities.

More than 1,000 online customer representatives with disabilities worked overtime and contributed to the fight against COVID-19 during the Spring Festival holiday.

“I don’t have much free time, but I feel very fulfilled,” Ye concluded.

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