Research from DataEQ, in partnership with Deloitte Africa, shows that telecoms remains South Africa’s least-liked industry.
The latest South African Telecommunications Sentiment Index revealed that the sector ranked last for the second consecutive year compared to banking, insurance, and food retail.
Retail had a public net sentiment of 4.1%, followed by insurance at 1.4%.
While banking had a negative public net sentiment of -7.5%, it was eclipsed by people’s dislike of telecoms.
The researchers measured public net sentiment for the telecommunications industry at -31.5%.
The report also ranked cellular network operators according to customer sentiment, analysing operational and reputational customer opinion.
Overall, MTN had the highest net sentiment of South Africa’s mobile operators with –6.7% — extending its lead over the rest with a 14.9 percentage point improvement from last year.
Vodacom saw an increase of 2.8 percentage points — enough to go from third to second place.
However, Telkom is breathing down its neck after a 13.6 percentage point surge.
Cell C dropped from second to fourth place thanks to a deterioration in operational sentiment.
“Operational conversation pertains to mentions from consumers in a customer journey with a network provider, from those looking to sign up or cancel, as well as current customers or ex-customers reflecting on their experiences,” the researchers explained.
They found that Cell C’s customer migration to Vodacom and MTN drove complaints.
Rather than compete with MTN and Vodacom in network investment, Cell C opted to switch off its cellular network and entered separate deals with its rivals.
Cell C prepaid customers would use an MTN-managed network, while contract subscribers roam on Vodacom’s network.
The researchers concluded that this resulted in a swell of customer complaints about network downtime.
MTN and Rain also saw increased negativity around their networks, with network quality complaints doubling in their contribution to both operators’ negative operational conversation year-on-year.
Vodacom saw multiple flares in operational complaints over the year.
The researchers stated that these complaints were primarily linked to the competitor’s ShakeOff puzzles.
Vodacom subscribers claimed the puzzles were impossible to complete.
There were also some reports of Vodacom network downtime, the report said.
Vodacom was the only provider whose reputational sentiment declined year on year.
The researchers found that this negative shift was tied mainly to a rise in negativity related to pursuing a telecoms licence in Ethiopia.
Telkom recorded the most significant year-on-year improvement in reputation thanks to decreased negativity and a rise in positive reputational sentiment.
While network quality and customer service remained highly negative areas for network operators in 2021, pricing sentiment increased by 6.4 percentage points from 2020
“In 2021, Cell C, MTN and Vodacom all decreased the price of their 1GB, 30-day data bundle to R85, while Telkom reduced their equivalent offering to R79,” the researchers stated.
“This was likely a driving factor behind the progress seen by the industry in terms of pricing sentiment.”