Telcos in South Africa ignore half of all consumer complaints on social media

Half of all consumer complaints on social media go unanswered by mobile operators in South Africa. This is according to BrandsEye’s SA Telcos Sentiment Index that analyzed some 500 000 social media posts about telco providers from December 2018 to February 2019.

BrandsEye notes that an estimated 120 000 online consumers expressed negative sentiment towards their provider. About 10.0% of these consumers expressed an intent to cancel with them. More than a third of consumers looking to cancel blamed customer service.

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

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. “By delivering on the basics, providers can differentiate themselves and reduce churn through improved customer experience, said Ray.

Telkom South Africa saw the highest proportion of customers discussing cancellation. Despite this, it was also the preferred alternative for those looking to switch providers, largely due to its affordable data offerings.

‘’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”, Ray added.

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. Ray added: “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.”

Brandseye retrieved 538 740 posts pertaining to South Africa’s four major telecommunications providers for the period 1 December 2018 to 28 February 2019. The providers analysed in this study were Cell C, MTN, Telkom, and Vodacom. Data sources included all the main social networks, namely Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as well as multiple other online sources.

The full report is available here.

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Nixon Kanali

Tech journalist based in Nairobi. I track and report on tech and African startups. Founder and Editor of TechTrends Media. Nixon is also the East African tech editor for Africa Business Communities. Send tips to

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