China’s travel industry has long suffered from dissatisfied customers, with some 10 to 20 percent of travelers saying they weren’t satisfied with their travel experience. And until recently, their chief recourse was voicing their complaints on the popular Chinese microblogging platform, Weibo.

Now, however, Weibo’s parent company, Sina, has been working to turn skyrocketing customer complaints into an opportunity, launching Black Cat Complaint (黑猫投诉), a website and app for customers to file complaints, as well as offering mediation services between the aggrieved customers and businesses.

Chinese travelers have increasingly filed complaints against Ctrip, Fliggy, Qunar, and others on Weibo

With this service, Sina hopes to establish a national ranking of companies’ customer complaint response capability. And while the target companies on Black Cat vary greatly, travel companies make up a significant portion on the list. Among them, Alibaba-owned Fliggy, Qunar, and Ctrip.com International received the highest number of complaints in the first half of 2018. International tour cancellation airfare refunds are among the top sticking points; with upselling and cancellations by tour operators listed as important issues.

According to its website, Black Cat receives more than 1,000 legitimate complaints every day (nearly 60,000 complaints have been accepted since its launch). Each complaint is listed and searchable on the site, and only registered users can post complaints. Posts are also tagged as “replied,” “resolved,” or “processing.” Black Cat shared one case in which it successfully helped a customer obtain a full refund from online travel agency Fliggy for an unissued plane ticket.

black cat complaint

A screenshot of the Black Cat Complaint homepage showing one post that has received a reply and one that is processing.

Previously, consumers’ only recourse for unsatisfactory service was to go directly to the company or file a complaint through a government agency. There are four channels for customers to file complaints through the government: the local tourism bureau, local municipal government, local consumer protection hotline, and national tourism complaint hotline. The national hotline and direct contact with the travel agency have reportedly been the most effective channels, as local government may seek to protect business interests.

In addition to processing complaints, Black Cat releases three monthly performance lists: a Red list, Black list and Complaint Response Efficiency list. The ratings are based on the total number of complaints, the number of responses and resolved cases, as well as response speed. The Red list is for companies with strong customer complaint response capabilities; the Black list is for companies with poor response ratings.

These rankings enable Black Cat to track companies’ complaint response quality. According to Black Cat, among travel companies, Qunar, Ctrip, and Ly.com have high complaint resolution response rates. Other online travel agencies — Mafengwo, Airbnb, and Tuniu — are rated the worst for complaint resolution in the travel segment.

Since Sina backs Black Cat, some users have questioned its credibility, though others have endorsed its efficiency in obtaining refunds. While it’s still unclear how Sina will monetize this platform, this could be yet another step towards building a national credibility system, this time  for businesses instead of individuals.

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