It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for consumers, but also companies and service providers to ensure their services remain functional, and at a standard their customers expect. We have predictably seen a dramatic rise in complaint volumes for certain services compared to a more sedate 2019 – this will come with the increased demand both for supply and for recompense when things have gone wrong.
What is telling is that some industries – and companies – have remained consistent in the rate of satisfaction that they have provided their customers with the handling of their complaints, while others have seen more significant swings in that sentiment.
Perhaps as importantly, that consistency hasn’t necessarily meant ‘consistently good’. In some areas, Resolver has identified little to no downturn in satisfaction but this is coming from a low base so certainly hasn’t meant customers have been left delighted.
We looked at levels of customer satisfaction using the feedback of our users in seven sectors that have arguably been central during the Covid-19 pandemic – whether this is because there has been an increased demand for their services as we got used to staying at home, or because they have been required to step up to support us during these challenging times.
But which sectors, according to more than 57,000 feedbacks, have shown that their complaints handling has weathered the storm of the pandemic so far and which are on the downward spiral in terms of failing their customers? We reveal our results.
It’s mainly the sectors that are regulated that have shown a consistent performance in customer satisfaction during the course of the pandemic.
Banks – on the face of it – are perhaps one of the bigger customer satisfaction success stories. Compared to all those we looked at, banks saw the highest customer satisfaction score by sector by the end of August – albeit at just 49%.
Banks were required to bring in supporting measures, including freezing changes to overdraft interest rates and allowing credit card and mortgage payment holidays, to help potentially struggling consumers. It’s interesting to see that with these extra measures, customer satisfaction has in fact has even increased during the pandemic so far, with August showing an average score of 49%.
Meanwhile, satisfaction scores in both the energy and broadband sectors remain low, despite upturns over the course of the year, with averages of 33% and 34% respectively in August. Looking at the year so far overall energy has seen an increase compared to 2019, but broadband satisfaction scores are 5% lower than the previous year.
The negative direction of travel
What is particularly telling is that the travel sector has since February seen a steeper decline in customer satisfaction, and aside from package deliveries we are seeing our lowest sector level customer satisfaction scores. Airlines and tour operators have been those most affected by almost week-on-week changes to government advice, and consumers booking holidays have found themselves at the brunt of this uncertainty.
Complaints about cancellation issues have been – unsurprisingly – on the rise and Resolver has seen a growth in the resolution rate of complaints for the sector – that is, cases are being closed. However, when coupled with a distinct fall in customer satisfaction as the year has progressed – to 25% by August, it seems these complaints have not been resolved in the way customers have been expecting or indeed wanting.
Customers were perhaps more patient and understanding of delays to get their complaints answered towards the start of lockdown, but fast forward a few months and that patience is wearing thin. It’s not hard to see why. We are aware of customers not receiving refunds for cancelled flights or holidays at all despite it being their legal right to expect this. This is coupled with those that have had to wait weeks, even months, before getting the money back that they are due, and it is an issue that remains.
For those familiar to Resolver, it will not have gone unnoticed that package delivery complaints have been regularly among our top three issues this year. Significantly increased demand will have contributed to this of course, but with customer satisfactions scores being low among all the companies in our analysis, it is clear that more needs to be done to ensure consumers – and providers – who are relying on package delivery firms to fulfil orders are getting the service they are paying for.
Put in context, on average customer satisfaction among package deliveries this year was at just 23%, and has barely climbed above 25% month on month during the pandemic. Despite customer expectations of service having to change, most notably drivers being told to limit contact with customers there remains significant frustration at the handling of complaints throughout the sector.
Holding steady year on year for satisfaction is online shops, but we saw an interesting first few months of 2020, recording an average customer satisfaction of 43% in April 2020 before dipping over the course of the summer. This is likely to be owing to online shops giving people the ability to purchase perhaps in some cases essential goods as their high street or shopping centre counterparts were forced to close. But the goodwill of consumers if mistakes are not rectified, particularly with refunds – one of the largest types of complaints we are encountering – is clearly waning.
Of all the ‘unregulated’ sectors, supermarkets have the highest average customer satisfaction scores of 2020. Dips in March as the realities of social distancing, panic buying and limited shopper numbers forced action at short notice have given way to sentiment that shows they have broadly sustained during the challenge. However, in general scores remain low, with the sector averaging 42% during the past six months.
The companies that rose to the challenge
Within each of our sectors, we wanted to see if any companies were stand-out performers for customer satisfaction and if some saw challenges keeping their customers happy during the pandemic.
Notable performers – and those that have seen their scores rise year on year include Jet2, American Airlines, Ann Summers and Pets At Home. Meanwhile, Virgin has seen significant declines in many of its service offerings – with both Virgin Media and Virgin Atlantic seeing notable drops in customer satisfaction according to our data.