Back to Blog

From COVID-19 to business chats: What can our conversations tell us about trends?

Tania Habib

Data Analyst

Anne Paling

Manager, Data Annotation & Testing

Conversation trends header
Table of contents

Ever since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic in March 2020, along with affecting millions of people’s lives, it has also become part of our everyday conversations (in addition to dominating news headlines and social media posts). Where chit-chat or small talk used to focus on the weather, now it revolves around the current trajectory and progression of the coronavirus, like which new variant is currently wreaking havoc on the world.

In addition to the obvious changes that the pandemic has had on our lives, it has also added many new words and phrases to our personal lexicons that were not part of conversations before the pandemic—such as “Coronavirus,” “COVID-19,” “social distancing,” and of course, “pandemic!”

What does this have to do with business communications?

It’s simple: how we talk about the world at large and how we talk about our work follow the same patterns. Whether it’s a big change like a global pandemic or a change in business processes that introduce new buzzwords, we can see their impact by tracking how much we talk about them.

How does that work? Let’s look at our conversations about COVID-19 to see what patterns we can find.

What we say when we talk about COVID

Now, unless you live under a rock, it would be exceedingly difficult to not know about the pandemic. However, we wanted to explore how the trends and presence of pandemic-relevant keywords correlated to the different events we were experiencing.

To do this, we gathered data from the beginning of 2020 until August 2021:

Mentions of coronavirus stats

Let's say you knew nothing about the pandemic, but you were shown this graph and asked the question: "When did the coronavirus pandemic start?" It would be easy to see that terms related to Coronavirus (including COVID and COVID-19) went from being basically non-existent to being mentioned over two hundred thousand times in March 2020! Simply by looking at this graph, you’d be able to make an accurate guess as to exactly when the pandemic started.

So, what else can we learn about the pandemic, simply by looking at our customers' conversation data?

The next example shows that keyword mentions can be a lagging indicator of events:

Mentions of vaccine

This graph shows the mentions of "vaccine" and "vaccination." The US approved the first vaccination for use on December 11, 2020. The first spike occurred in January 2021 as more and more people began to talk about it, though you can see it had been rising since September 2020. The slight delay is likely due to the announcement not coming until the 11th of the month, as well as the usual lull in product use seen over the holidays.

The next graph we want to share has our data overlaid with some real world data. You can see the mentions of the phrase "Delta variant" plotted along with the percentage of the total analyzed sequences which belong to the Delta variant:

Mentions of delta variant statistics

Again, you can see mentions show a slight lagging indicator behind the actual explosion of the variant within the US.

Work chatter—without a water cooler

Now let's take a look at some work-related terms. Not surprisingly, the terms "Work from Home" and "Working from Home" exploded in March of 2020:

Mentions of work from home statistics

Another term we were interested in exploring was a new buzzword: "hybrid work." This term felt like one of those terms that was used a lot in articles, but not something people would use in actual conversations:

Mentions of hybrid work statistics

We do see an increase in usage, but the scale is much smaller than we saw with other terms. Take a look at how it appears when compared to the terms "physical distancing" and "social distancing":

Mentions of physical distancing statistics

Relatively speaking, it’s mentioned very rarely (and probably mostly by HR! 😂).

What can we learn from this?

With this, we can see how our conversation data on coronavirus mimics what has been happening in the pandemic. So how can we use these trends in a business context? Well, your conversation data mimics what’s happening in your business.

We saw that when the Delta variant started growing, conversations mentioning variants shot up. Now what if you look at your business conversations and see mentions of a competitor are on the rise? What about mentions of errors or bugs? Sharp increases in these conversations are a sign that something is up, so by tracking these trends, you can catch on early and get ahead of the conversations.

Want to track your voice conversations?

What are you missing by not tracking your voice conversations? Find out with Dialpad Ai.