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Telecoms Index: Telcos need to urgently address customers’ pain points

Download the the South African Telecoms Index here.

Telecommunications providers have cemented themselves as the backbone of modern
communication, and therefore, wield substantial influence over society today. As all sectors of
government, business and civil society become increasingly interconnected, telecom providers
play a key role in supporting the advancement of overall tech-development, which impacts the
sustainability of many organisations, including their own. However, despite the indispensable
nature of their services, a disparity exists between customer expectations and the actual
delivery of quality service and support.

According to the latest South African Telecommunications Sentiment Index, the local
telecommunications industry continues to face significant challenges in consumer sentiment,
lagging behind other industries such as banking, insurance and retail, with a negative Net
Sentiment score of -18.8%.

sa telecoms sentiment index 24 industry net sentiment

Conducted by PwC South Africa in collaboration with DataEQ, the annual index is compiled
from social media data and reflects the Net Sentiment of local consumers toward their
telecommunications service providers. We assessed 1,617,345 public mentions about Cell C,
MTN, rain, Telkom and Vodacom from 1 January 2023 to 31 Dec 2023 to benchmark consumer
sentiment on social media among South Africa’s major telecom operators and to provide data-
driven insights on how to improve customer experience.

rain leads the way

This year, rain emerged as the sole provider with a net positive score, unanimously taking the
top spot in both operational and reputational Net Sentiment  . Engaging campaigns played an
important role in this feat, helping boost rain’s Net Sentiment by more than 16 percentage

rain sa telecoms index operational net sentiment

Network issues and customer service woes

Operational sentiment was negative across the board, signalling an industry-wide issue with
crucial business activities like customer service and network availability. Elmo Hildebrand,
PwC Africa Telecommunications Leader, notes that while complaints over network quality are
often impacted by external factors like load shedding, a significant share of negative customer
sentiment is being driven by telecoms’ inability to meet basic customer service needs.

“Customer service accounted for 27.7% of all industry conversation, with an overwhelming
negative sentiment of -87.7% (2022: -90.6%). Customers are left dissatisfied by a lack of
efficient feedback and issue resolution, particularly when contacting call centres,” he says.
DataEQ Telecoms Lead, Liska Kloppers, adds that a communication channel analysis points
to a key channel dependency on the traditional service model. “Call centres remained the most
complained about channel, suggesting that despite the growing availability of digital channels,
telecoms companies continue to rely heavily on telephonic support. However, this support is
proving inadequate with customers turning to social media channels as an alternate to resolvetheir issues.”

Could AI be the answer?

Hildebrand believes that providers should adopt AI solutions to better meet customer demands,
empower employees, and reduce total costs to serve and grow revenue. “There is an
opportunity to reduce the strain on these channels,” he says. “This can be done through the
implementation of AI-powered services which would aid with efficiently resolving large volumes
of low-touch queries and streamlining the back-office operations—such as billing—through
hyper-automation to reduce manual intervention and rework.”

He explains that both of these interventions free up service agents to focus on inquiries and
complaints that require a human touch, leading to more efficient and effective customer service.

Positive outlook for telecoms financial services

Financial services offered by telecoms exhibited varying performances in the report, with mobile
money driving positive interest, compared to insurance which drove risk and complaints.
Hildebrand says: “Overall, financial services remain a key area for growth and should be a
future focus for telecoms. The industry was flooded with campaigns which contributed to the
positivity. Campaigns such as #JustMoMoIt, #DoMore, and #AllYouNeedIsMoMo from MTN
Momo were particularly popular.

“Telecoms are doing their bit to solve digital and financial inclusion, and it is clear that
customers respond well when their most pressing problems are solved,” he adds.

Closing the gap

As the industry forges ahead, telecoms companies need to place a keen focus on closing the
customer sentiment gap. Nana Madikane, PwC Africa Telecommunications, Media and
Technology Industry Leader, explains why: “As telecommunications industry leaders navigate
this age of continuous reconfiguration and reinvention, they need to address a multitude of
strategic areas vying for their focus. And in this vein, it is key to remember who is at the heart of
their future business successes—the customer.”