In the weeks and months ahead, COVID-19 will present new and unprecedented challenges to both consumers and organisations. In particular, customer service teams are likely to face signifcant challenges as digital channels become a key platform for service-related requests from customers looking for crtitical support and information.
This research focused on COVID-19 conversation in relation to South Africa’s telco providers, from 1 March to 23 March 2020. The research analysed 177 000 social media posts about COVID-19 and Cell C, MTN, rain, Telkom and Vodacom. Some 26 000 of these posts were individually analysed by DataEQ’s Crowd of human verifiers. The analysis focused primarily on the country’s two largest networks, MTN and Vodacom.
State of national disaster triggered COVID-19 conversation
The growth in conversation about COVID-19 was triggered by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 15 March TV address where he announced that a state of national disaster had been declared.
The data presented on this graph shows the total aggregated volume of conversation for all network providers (Cell C, MTN, rain, Telkom and Vodacom) between 1 and 23 March 2020.
As COVID-19-related conversation increased, telcos’ ability to respond to their most important customer interactions decreased
Response rate over time. The data in this graph aggregates all Telecommunication brands’ response rates over 1-23 March. The above graph compares the share of non-priority mentions (which typically do not require a response) in overall conversation with the telco’s response to priority interactions. The figures correspond to an industry aggregate.
The two followed inverse trends. As the share of noise increased, likely as a result of coronavirus conversation, the telcos’ response rate decreased. This illustrates how online noise can hinder a service provider’s ability to service their customers.There will likely be an increase in online customer service requests during the pandemic as consumers search for support on digital channels, particularly during the lockdown. Consequeuntly, organisations like telcos will face a significant challenge in finding the important customer conversations that need to be addressed.
Timing of MTN’s data cost cut announcement gave them an edge over Vodacom in COVID-19 sentiment
Net Sentiment competitor comparison. Excludes mentions posted by enterprises. COVID-19 conversation had minimal impact on Net Sentiment for the telco providers, with little difference seen between their overall Net Sentiment and Net Sentiment that excludes the pandemic-related conversation.
MTN outperformed all competitors in Net Sentiment for COVID-19 conversation and was discussed positively by both consumers and influential authors, including Premier Alan Winde. Its announcement that data prices would drop, #WeGotU sanitation tips for keeping devices clean, and the MTNSA-Take Care Mzansi message drove positive consumer feedback.
Some Vodacom customers reported poor connectivity while self-isolating and demanded lower data prices. Vodacom’s decision to keep stores open was criticised by some consumers who felt it went against the President’s call for social distancing.
Consumers requested telcos provide cheaper data
Main topics cited in COVID-19 conversation. This graph displays the primary topics cited in sentiment-baring conversation about COVID-19. This analysis uses aggregated industry data, including Cell C, MTN, rain, Telkom, and Vodacom.
More than a third of all sentiment-bearing COVID-19 conversation pertained to data, much of this also linked to consumers talking about pricing and comparing telcos. A number of consumers reached out to their telcos to request a reduction in data prices, with others calling for free data, citing the remote working and learning.
MTN’s decision to slash its data costs by up to 50% drove consumer praise; some consumers, however, questioned why the price decrease would only be implemented in mid-April given the current pandemic.
Zero-rated content, particularly Vodacom’s e-School, also drove positivity among consumers. Some South Africans believed COVID-19 was impacting network quality, while others complained about poor connectivity affecting their self-isolation experience.
Consumers also noted Vodacom and MTN’s messages of solidarity in their network names.
DataEQ is producing new research on the impact of COVID-19. Please check back for updates.