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Covid-19 SA Telecoms Analysis 




Telcos could face significant customer service pressure in months ahead

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 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

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

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.