Telcos ignore half of social media complaints

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Operators should think of social media as a barometer for their market conduct and reputation.
Operators should think of social media as a barometer for their market conduct and reputation.

Almost half of complaints on social media go unanswered by telecoms operators.

This is according to a BrandsEye's SA Telcos Sentiment Index, which analysed around 500 000 social media posts about South Africa's telco providers from December 2018 to February 2019.

The results show great dissatisfaction with the four main mobile operators, which failed to impress clients with customer service and data rules and prices.

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

In terms of sentiment, industry-wide net sentiment towards the four major telecoms providers was -45.3%. The index found that Vodacom was the most negatively discussed provider, with a net sentiment of -53.5%, while Cell C was the most positively discussed but still had a net sentiment of -36.9%.

Industry-wide net sentiment towards the four major telcos was -45.3%.
Industry-wide net sentiment towards the four major telcos was -45.3%.

An estimated 120 000 online consumers expressed negative sentiment towards their telecoms provider and around 10% of these expressed 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," BrandsEye says.

Data sources for the index included social networks Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as multiple other online sources.

Facebook complaints went unanswered 19.1% more often than Twitter complaints.

The index found that Telkom had the greatest response disparity between platforms, having replied to Twitter complaints 33.8% more frequently than on Facebook. Cell C had the lowest share of unanswered complaints at 26.8%, while MTN had the highest with 63.2% of complaints ignored.

Almost 50% of complaints went unanswered.
Almost 50% of complaints went unanswered.

Consumers had to wait 16 hours on average to receive a reply to their telecoms complaints on Twitter. Cell C took on average two hours to reply to Twitter complaints, making it the provider to respond to the most customers with the fastest reply-time. That is 40.7 hours, or 1.7 days, quicker than Telkom's average reply-time which was 42.7 hours. MTN took on average 14.4 hours to respond and Vodacom took 6.3 hours.

Cell C was the fastest to respond to Twitter complaints.
Cell C was the fastest to respond to Twitter complaints.

The index found that data conversation was the chief contributor to positive sentiment, accounting for 23.4% of all positive conversation and 8% of this conversation related favourably to affordability.

Avoiding churn

BrandsEye says the unpredictable spread of consumer dissatisfaction on social media means 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.

It says social media provides a platform for consumers to raise complaints and queries directly with their service providers, and gives telcos the opportunity to intervene and resolve complaints timeously and in the customer's preferred channel of engagement.

"However, if social media complaints go unanswered or are not resolved swiftly, they pose a significant risk to reputation and may contribute to customer churn."

Vodacom blunder

The way Vodacom dealt with the implementation of the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA's) new data regulations damaged its reputation and drove consumers to quit the network, BrandsEye found.

BrandsEye says an analysis of conversations pertaining specifically to ICASA's End-user and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations, which came into effect in March, showed consumers were the most negative about Vodacom.

Vodacom received major backlash in February after it proposed charging customers up to R49 to roll over their data bundles, something the regulations called for but did not specifically say could not be charged for. Following an investigation from ICASA, Vodacom backtracked on its initial proposition, and reduced its out-of-bundle rates and made its roll-over service free for contract and hybrid customers.

Vodacom saw the most negative conversation around the new ICASA data regulations.
Vodacom saw the most negative conversation around the new ICASA data regulations.

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.

Net sentiment towards Vodacom vs Telkom and their approaches to ICASA's data rules.
Net sentiment towards Vodacom vs Telkom and their approaches to ICASA's data rules.
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