MTN is tops among South African customers, while Rain is stone last — and by some distance — according to new research gauging the sentiment of consumers towards local telecommunications operators.
BrandsEye’s latest South African Telco Sentiment Index, conducted in partnership with Deloitte Africa, shows that performance of operators across the board – from the perspective of consumers – leaves “much to be desired”.
The study, which analysed consumer social media conversations directed at the country’s major telecoms providers, revealed that South Africans were notably more negative towards telcos than banks, insurers or retailers in 2020. However, some were much worse than others.
“Having tracked over two million social media posts about Cell C, MTN, Rain, Telkom and Vodacom throughout the year, the index found that some telcos received significantly more negativity on social media platforms than others,” BrandsEye said on Wednesday.
Each post received a sentiment rating — positive, neutral or negative — which was used to calculate a “net sentiment” ranking for each operator.
Worrying for Rain and its shareholders is that this relative newcomer in South Africa’s telecoms industry appears to have serious customer service issues. It ranked last, scoring over 20 percentage points below the industry average.
On the other end of the spectrum, having scored the lowest negative sentiment and highest positive sentiment, MTN ranked first. Cell C, despite its financial woes, placed second, behind MTN, followed by Vodacom in third place and Telkom in fourth position, but still well ahead of last-placed Rain.
“It was in network conversation that MTN shone,” BrandsEye said. “While seeing only a small advantage in quality, it was speed and coverage with which consumers were most satisfied. Rain on the other hand, saw above-industry-average levels of risk conversation about downtime, evidencing network quality as one of its major weaknesses.”
When it came to load shedding and how this impacted the networks, both MTN and Cell C saw a considerably better net sentiment than the other operators, suggesting their users were the least affected by power outages.
Pricing complaints, meanwhile, saw a downward trend across the industry in 2020, largely driven by data price cuts. However, despite slashing data prices by up to 40%, Vodacom still saw the most negativity around pricing, BrandsEye said. Cell C recorded the highest positive and least negative pricing sentiment, ranking first in this area.
“Customer service emerged as the area that most negatively impacted sentiment towards telcos (telecoms companies) in 2020. Unsurprisingly, service complaints saw a steep increase a month into lockdown and remained consistently above pre-lockdown levels for the rest of the year,” BrandsEye said.
“With the temporary closure of many physical branches and difficult operating conditions for call centres, turnaround time was raised in the bulk of these service complaints. Many customers reported poor responsiveness from telcos and of having to try contact them on multiple instances when seeking assistance.”
Despite operators’ efforts to up their game in assisting customers on social media, at its best the industry’s response rate was 56.9%. “Potentially the most alarming finding, however, was that in 2020, more than half of all mentions requiring a response from network providers did not receive one,” it said.
Rain most impacted
“Of all the telcos, Rain was most impacted by service complaints, suggesting its affordability approach came at the expense of customer experience. Despite ranking first in overall net sentiment, MTN customers appeared to struggle the most when trying to contact their network provider telephonically. These complaints increased steadily from April to June, suggesting the initial stages of lockdown impaired MTN’s call centre.”
In terms of response rate, Cell C replied to the largest portion of its priority conversation while also responding to customers in the shortest time. — (c) 2021 NewsCentral Media