Lockdown versus lockdown: the picture of complaints

3 min read
December 22, 2020

Complaints towards airlines spiked by more than 4,000 per cent during the second lockdown in the UK compared to the start of the first. 

Despite complaints dropping by 76% across the entire travel sector, airlines saw a marked spike compared to the first 28 days of ‘lockdown one’ in March and April. For airlines, cancellation, charge and fee issues topped the list of complaints ‘second time around’, alarming given that another lockdown meant travel bans or risking breaking the law.

Resolver analysed its complaints data over the second lockdown (the month to 2 December 2020) and compared to the first 28 days of the first that started towards the end of March 2020. While complaints were down 25% over the most recent lockdown, we found that:

  • The travel sector saw the largest sea change in complaint volumes at both ends of the scale, despite being down 76% overall.
  • While complaints made about holidays and travel agents were 91% and 81% down respectively, airlines complaints increased by 4,000%.
  • Shopping saw the highest volume of complaints In November and December at almost 31,500 but these were 15% down on the first 28 days of lockdown one. The second highest sector was finance (more than 8,500 complaints) and this was up 7% on the first lockdown.
  • Other noticeable drops were public services (42%) and telecoms (34%) in the second lockdown but motoring and restaurants saw upswings at 42% and 39% respectively.
  • For a number of those sectors and services that saw a rise in complaints, customer service issues were common.

Cancellation complaints not entirely ‘cancelled’

Understandably complaints relating to charges, fees and cancellations were down by almost 80% during the second lockdown, linked to fewer bookings for services such as holidays being made through caution and the unpredictability that the pandemic was causing, along with potential longer-term subscriptions being honoured or rearranged. 

However, these complaints remained rife among airlines during the second lockdown – up more than 3000% compared to the first 28 days of ‘lockdown one’ and making up 83% of complaints to airlines during the second period. 

Customer service issues made up the majority of the rest of the complaints among airlines, and were big features among complaints in the sectors that saw an increase. Energy, which saw a growth in complaints generally of more than 20%, saw more than a tenth of those complaints relating to customer service. For restaurants (including takeaways), customer service complaints doubled in numbers throughout the second lockdown.

The longer-term picture

Resolver also compared the picture of complaints during the whole of the first lockdown (March to mid June 2020), the second lockdown and the interim period when shops, pubs, restaurants and holidays started to open up to us again. We looked at complaint volumes but also our users’ feedback on these complaints, including any changes in satisfaction levels.

During the first phase of lockdown delivery and collection complaints rose rapidly, making up 32% of Resolver’s cases by the first week of June. While the majority of these are related to online shopping orders, these complaints also feature for restaurants and takeaways, and package collections for consumers. 

Delivery and collection issues reduced once businesses reopened but during the second lockdown they climbed again, and by the end of lockdown two accounted for just over a quarter of our complaints daily. Resolver predicts that Black Friday purchases contributed to a number of these issues, and with an increased demand for Christmas deliveries already occurring, we will likely see package delivery issues exacerbate as December continues.

Product issues meanwhile overtook package deliveries complaints in between the lockdown periods – accounting for around a quarter of complaints consistently through the period. 

Satisfaction not guaranteed 

Meanwhile, in both lockdowns delivery and collection issues were those that customers were least satisfied with in terms of how their complaint had been handled. An average of just 30% satisfaction rate during the first lockdown actually fell slightly during the between-lockdown period, climbing again marginally in the 28 days to 2 December.

However, satisfaction for charges, cancellations and fees complaints was equally poor and like delivery issues fell between lockdowns. Lockdown two saw a more dramatic upswing – but at just 35% this was still among the lower levels of satisfaction across all our complaints issues. Our users’ average rating for the ease of complaining dropped to below 20% between lockdowns – during which travellers saw government restrictions yo-yo and their travel plans disrupted at short notice. 

At the opposite end of the scale, product issues were the most satisfactorily resolved complaints according to our users, with an average score of 49% during the first lockdown jumping to 53% most recently. These complaints were also judged to be among the easiest to resolve. 

If you have an issue that needs sorting, Resolver can help. Raise your complaint for free – any sector, any issue.

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