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Telecom operators have slowest response time to customers in Africa

Consumers in West Africa have identified the telecommunication industry as the sector with the most unresponsive customer experience centres, according to a report by BrandsEye.

The report which utilised a blend of artificial intelligence and human crowds to analyse 688,154 social media posts in three sectors from May to July, found that more than half of telcos’ conversations featured either a request for assistance from a customer or a customer providing feedback to the brand.

Airtel received the lowest scores out of the companies analysed in different countries with a peak of 57.8 percent negative sentiment for Airtel Kenya.

While the Airtel brand stands out across the nine countries examined including Nigeria, all the other telecommunication operators had a negative net sentiment. The difference was in the degree. For instance, while Airtel Nigeria had a 44.8 percent negative sentiment, MTN Nigeria 7.8 percent.

The telecommunication sector also had the most conversation on social media, which according to consultancy Omdia, was not really a surprise given that financial services are the most important category of digital services for most African telcos. Safaricom, MTN, and Airtel dominate mobile money services in most parts of Africa. In fact, 2 percent of conversation was about mobile money transfers suggesting growth in demand for integration from banks to mobile money systems.

Omdia projects that users of mobile financial services in Africa are set to increase from 148 million in 2019 to over 200 million by 2021. The rapid growth could explain the relatively higher volumes in the sector and its potential for future growth, Omdia says.

Overall, less than half of all customers who reached out to their bank, insurer, and telco on social media received a response from their provider.

“When organisations did respond, they took anywhere from one hour (in the Southern African insurance industry) to four days (in the East African banking industry),” the authors of the report noted. “Across regions, the banking industry was the most responsive on social media, however, the industry also saw some of the slowest response times, with customers waiting for up to 99 hours (4 days) for a response from their bank.”

In West Africa, customers who claimed their data and airtime disappeared without explanation accused the telco of unethical behaviour as a result. Consumers also claimed they found their balances depleted. Only a few blamed poor connectivity for using more data than warranted. West Africa had 315,844 conversations in total behind East Africa with 329,676 conversations.

Nic Ray, CEO of BrandsEye said the analysis became necessary to understand how consumers interact online with key brands and industries, particularly during the pandemic which boosted demand for digital services across the world and in Africa.

“As African governments and businesses encourage the use of digital platforms, and mobile internet penetration increases, more consumers are going to seek customer service on social media,” Ray said. “How organisations identify, interpret, and respond to this growing source of consumer feedback will be critical to building sustained brand loyalty, reducing risk, and growing market share.”

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