SA consumers are unhappy with telco providers’ data pricing and poor customer service as 1 in 10 threatened to switch networks. Photo: (AP Photo, File)

DURBAN – SA consumers are unhappy with telco providers’ data pricing and poor customer service as one in 10 threatened to switch networks and 44.4 percent of complaints on social media went unanswered by providers. 

SA telco providers should ignore the court of public opinion at their peril. BrandsEye’s SA Telcos Sentiment Index analysed some 500 000 social media posts about telco providers. The results paint a dire picture for Vodacom and its competitors, who failed to impress from data to customer service. 

Source: BrandsEye

Key findings:

Vodacom’s implementation of Icasa’s data regulations damaged its reputation and drove consumers to quit the network.

In an analysis of conversations pertaining specifically to the new Icasa data regulations, consumers were the most negative about Vodacom.

Source: BrandsEye

Vodacom faced consumer ire over data rollover and transfer charges. Consumers accused Vodacom of finding loopholes to avoid complying with the spirit of the new regulations. This prompted many to consider changing providers. 

In contrast, consumers appreciated Telkom’s implementation of the regulations after the network offered both services free of charge and was the first network to implement them.

Source: BrandsEye

Networks bleeding customers on social media 

An estimated 120 000 online consumers expressed negative sentiment towards their provider. About 10.0 percent of these consumers expressed an intent to cancel with them. More than a third of consumers looking to cancel blamed customer service. While Telkom saw the highest proportion of customers discussing cancellation, it was also the preferred alternative for those looking to switch providers, largely due to its affordable data offerings.

Poor customer service requires urgent fixing as nearly half of complaints go unanswered

Across the sector, customer service made up 47.2 percent of complaints; these were largely about turnaround time, accounting for 36.9 percent of complaints. 44.4 percent of complaints on social media went unanswered by providers. Of those that were answered, 61 percent concluded with the consumer being unhappy.

Grim findings still present an opportunity for providers 

The findings paint a grim picture of a sector that, amid pressure for cheaper data, is already desperate to identify areas of differentiation and new revenue streams. BrandsEye SA Chief Executive, Nic Ray, noted that the findings do present some opportunity for providers. 

Ray said, "By delivering on the basics, providers can differentiate themselves and reduce churn through improved customer experience. When looking to acquire new customers, Telkom has shown that the packaging and pricing of data products is the most important factor driving consumer choice right now". 

The unpredictable spread of consumer dissatisfaction on social media means that telco providers can no longer view it simply as a marketing platform, but must think of it as a barometer for their market conduct and reputation. 

"Providers who capitalise on this, with responsive and innovative customer care, will win the battle for consumer loyalty and reduce churn of post-paid customers. Those who do not, put both their reputation and bottom line at risk," concluded Ray.