Over lockdown we have seen extraordinary changes to society that have had a huge impact on the nation, how we live, interact, seek help and get by. Often complaints are a barometer of the things concerning people at a specific moment in time. Resolver’s latest complaint figures are unique because we can share them with you more or less just after they happen, so you can see precisely what people are seeking help for today.
However, Covid-19 has resulted in decisions and rules that affect our lives changing incredibly quickly. So as the nation faces another round of tighter restrictions, our six-month complaints data is a snapshot of what has brought us to this point, but we can also reveal significant hints about what the future holds.
Complaints have been significantly influenced by restrictions imposed by lockdown and the removal of services we either need or previously paid for. That said, Resolver saw more than half a million complaints over the six months to 30 September 2020 – up 11% on the previous six months.
In almost all our main sectors, complaints increased in April and peaked in May or June. At this point, lockdown restrictions eased, with some services starting to operate again and complaint levels dropped – but are still up on the previous year.
August is traditionally one of periods where people complain the least, though this August we saw complaints begin to increase again as people continued to pursue issues that hadn’t been resolved over lockdown. This trend continued over September.
What’s notable about October is that we’re starting to see the signs that complaint levels are increasing in areas that had been relatively stable up until recently, with energy, broadband and finance complaints now growing.
Which sectors are seeing the most complaints?
The impact of the pandemic and lockdown has had a massive impact on the things people complain about. In summary though, the nation prioritised what mattered the most.
Two issues drove complaints at the start of lockdown; online supermarket shopping and deliveries and getting refunds or rebooking holidays. Problems with non-supermarket retailers have taken over since, and the travel industry continues to prompt thousands of complaints every week.
At first, complaints about finances didn’t increase as much as you might expect. However, it’s likely that the Government support measures, from furlough to loans for businesses, helped people with financial issues during this time – though certainly not all people. It’s worth noting that this may change as redundancies are announced, Government schemes end, mortgage and loan holidays finish and bans on evictions and repossessions expire.
Customer relations and contacting firms
More than half the complaints received by Resolver’s users over lockdown explicitly mention customer service problems. Many directly mention not being able to contact a business by phone or email, with wider customer service issues mentioned in the vast majority of cases.
A number of companies removed their customer service options in the struggle to cope with demand in the first few months of lockdown. Disappointingly, many have still not brought them back and our research shows that some have taken the decision to make it much harder to complain since lockdown instead of investing in customer service at a time when it’s more vital than ever.
Sector by sector
Notes on the data
Our latest statistics cover complaints made between 1 April and 30 September 2020. Comparing six-monthly data can be complicated as many complaints are seasonal and vary significantly throughout the year. On top of that, the complaints Resolver has seen over lockdown have been fundamentally different to the previous periods.
While comparative data is interesting in some senses, it’s best to view the last six months as a ‘stand-alone’ period for the nation. Though we can see the beginnings of new trends in our data, the next few months will be volatile and reactive to the pandemic, Government responses and finances of people more generally.
While our data does suggest changes in the things people complain about, the only thing we can be sure of in the coming months and years is that adaptability will become vital for businesses and consumers alike – and support must continue for those in need and the industries we rely on too.