SA Internet Service Providers Come Under Fire

The SA Customer Satisfaction Index released its annual Internet service provide industry report on both wireless internet and fixed line internet service providers. For the wireless survey SAcsi surveyed over 1200 customers of SA wireless internet providers, who have given the industry an overall satisfaction score of 67.2 out of 100. The service providers included in the index were Telkom, Vodacom, Cell C and MTN, selected by market share. The data was collected between January and March this year.

The index probed 3G and LTE (also known as 4G) users who access the internet through dongles, routers or via 3G/LTE enabled tablets.

Telkom took the overall leadership position with a score of 70.4 out of 100. Vodacom and Cell C scored on par with the industry at 67.4 and 66.8 respectively, whereas MTN scored below par at 64.5 out of 100. Customers indicated that none of the providers are regarded as performing close to the ideal wireless internet solution. This is in line with a 2014 index which showed a low SAcsi score among fixed line internet service providers.

The SAcsi model combines three drivers of customer satisfaction: customer expectations, perceived quality and perceived value. The calculated customer satisfaction index is statistically linked to two outcomes: customer complaints and customer loyalty. The industry model can predict the outcome of changes in customer loyalty with a great degree of accuracy.

Telkom was the only provider that managed to exceed customer expectations in terms of overall quality and reliability. Vodacom, Cell C and MTN were rated much lower than expected on the ability to meet individual customer needs. “This is indeed a concern given that the expectations amongst customers are lower than in other industries we have measured,” explains Prof. Adré Schreuder, founder of SAcsi and CEO of Consulta Research.

Vodacom clients had the highest expectations in terms of two aspects: the overall quality of the service customers would receive and the expectation that the provider would meet the specific needs of the end user. Overall, however, customers did not have high expectations of reliability.

Cell C and Telkom are regarded as providing better value for money than Vodacom and MTN. MTN’s service is regarded as being the poorest given the prices they charge for their wireless internet service. This is borne out in the perceived value scores of the companies measured, which also showed that Telkom offers what is perceived as a good service at a good price.  

Prof. Schreuder is not surprised that perceived value of the wireless industry is low. “Wireless internet provision is constrained by poor signal strength in many areas, high costs and slow connection speed. Consumers have become reliant on data and as with other items which are deemed a necessary part of daily life, data costs become a grudge purchase. This is why wireless internet service provision is showing low loyalty scores and why customers will move if they can get data at a better price,” he says.

All providers experience high levels of complaints, with a third of all users reporting that they have experienced a problem with their provider in the last six months. The majority of complaints revolve around the quality of the network and connection speed. MTN seem to struggle with delivering their offering consistently and are regarded as being expensive.

Net Promoter Scores (the likelihood that customers would recommend a particular brand) are low compared to other industries. Despite this, Telkom recorded the highest score in the NPS.

Fixed line service providers

SAcsi measured customer satisfaction among fixed line internet service providers last year (the data was collected between April and august 2014 using a sample of 1675 customers). Fixed line ISPs were at the bottom of the SAcsi, recording one of the lowest satisfaction scores of the year at 67 out of 100.

The brands measured were Telkom, Mweb and a category of “other” brands. Telkom scored below par, with a satisfaction score of 61.5, while Mweb and the category of other brands scored above average at 69.5 and 72.5 respectively.

This sector recorded the highest rates of complaints in the SAcsi and correspondingly low loyalty scores. Only municipalities scored lower in terms of loyalty.

“Internet usage has exploded in South Africa but our infrastructure challenges have meant that there are limitations to the speed and availability of fixed line internet provision. Wireless internet provision is constrained by poor signal strength in many areas, line coverage and speed of connection,” says Prof. Schreuder.