Webcam woes top list of COVID-19 customer complaints

New research has revealed the changing face of customer enquiries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with video-conferencing issues having emerged as the most common complaint.

These findings have been revealed following a snap poll by EvaluAgent, a leading provider of customer service quality assurance and improvement software, into its customer base, which comprises over 80 businesses across a range of industries.

Issues with technology were the most commonly-cited complaint received by businesses, as employees continue to adapt to the new reality of remote working. Interestingly, external industry research suggests that customer service tickets related to remote conferencing rose by more than 20% in March 2020, compared with the same period last year. Internet outages, such as Virgin Media’s recent broadband shutdown that recently left more than 40,000 customers without internet, also featured.

Enquiries around cancellations and refunds have also seen an increase and make up a large proportion of complaints received, with millions of Brits having had holidays, or live events such as concerts, cancelled due to COVID-19. Similarly, credit card chargebacks for customers seeking alternative routes to claim refunds have also surged, with consumer group Which? having reported that queries around chargeback applications has increased tenfold over March and April, compared with the previous period.

Concerningly, complaints related to financial difficulties, such as issues with utility bills or insurance, also factored highly, with many customers contacting businesses about bills they were either not expecting, or not able to pay. A further external study showed that calls related to financial hardship had increased by 2.5 times in the span of a week during the pandemic.

Technical issues aside, more complex, emotive queries have dominated the list, pointing to an increased level of customer emotion and anxiety in ordinary enquiries throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift in customer sentiment is backed by wider industry data, with a recent study from the Harvard Business Review having found that the percentage of calls scored as “difficult” more than doubled from a typical level of 10% to more than 20%. This has in turn placed further pressure on customer service teams who are currently having to juggle the challenges of switching to remote working and staff shortages due to illness or temporary furlough.

Unsurprisingly, the last few weeks have seen a significant shift in the nature of enquiries received by businesses as we continue to adjust to life in lockdown. If these customer interactions are not handled correctly first time, businesses run the risk of both alienating their customer base and losing loyal staff.

Customer service staff are the face and voice of businesses during these difficult times, and this points to a greater need for businesses to ensure their customer service teams are properly supported – particularly at a time when so many of us are working from home. Constant feedback and communication is key to ensuring customer service staff can cope with managing increasingly-complex customer relationships, creating a better outcome for all.

The full list of the most prevalent COVID-19 customer complaints are:

  1. Video-conferencing issues – e.g. being unable to enable video or sound during conference calls.
  2. Difficulties obtaining a refund for cancelled live events.
  3. Internet outages during the working day.
  4. Issues with complex or unexpected bills.
  5. Difficulties claiming on insurance.
  6. Price rises for everyday household products, such as hand sanitiser.
  7. System overloads – for example from customers attempting to book online food delivery slots.
  8. Shortages of essential products.
  9. Queries relating to credit card chargebacks.
  10. Delayed deliveries from online purchases.