News : Telkom Sees Complaints Surge
Johannesburg, South Africa, March 23, 2015 - After Telkom's decision not to renew the contracts of nearly 500 temporary call centre staff towards the end of last year, complaints about the call centres have increased by more than 6 000%.
So far this year, consumer complaint site Hellopeter has recorded 4 670 complaints against Telkom's service, 1 046 of which pertain to Telkom's call centres, bad service and lack of response or feedback. Between January and 19 March last year, 73 complaints were registered, 16 of which related to the company's call centres, bad service, and lack of feedback.
Telkom says there is no major core network fault that could be causing a surge in service disruptions. The company does, however, acknowledge it has an issue with its call centre, and is prioritising clearing the backlog, with hopes of improved service in the next few weeks.
In December, Telkom decided not to renew the contracts of 480 temporary call centre staff, moving the functionality in-house. At the time, the telco said it was comfortable it had sufficient capacity within its existing structures to manage queries and call volumes. Earlier this month, Telkom announced its call centre operations and staff would be outsourced.
ICT expert Adrian Schofield attributes the spike in complaints to the reduction in call centre agent numbers. "The reduction in agent numbers at Telkom would surely result in longer waiting times and more unanswered calls, so where else to register your complaint, but online?
"The big percentage increase in complaints to Hellopeter is a sure sign that dissatisfied customers need an outlet for their frustrations," says Schofield.
Complaints on Hellopeter, in the last month, include:
* "I called about four times, each time I spend 20 minutes on the phone; then they transfer me from one department to another. I am so sick of their bad service."
* Another customer claims to have been on hold for two hours: "This is far too long to be on hold. Even with high call volumes I can't spend two hours holding."
* One customer said, over the period of two days, a total of five hours was spent on hold: "I highly doubt the call centre is as busy as the line claims. I've phoned as the clock hit 8am and various times during the day. I refuse to believe the call centre is that busy."
Telkom spokesperson Jacqui O'Sullivan has apologised for "the inconvenience or any delays our customers may be experiencing when contacting our Telkom call centres".
O'Sullivan explains the "extended holding times when contacting our call centres is a result of high call volumes, which we see are mainly the result of many of our customers requiring telephonic support in order to reset passwords and recalibrate modem settings and so forth. Adverse weather conditions also affect our ADSL services at this time of year."
O'Sullivan said Telkom has allocated staff to other customer channels, such as social media and online reporting, to deal with issues. "We are working to get customer faults uploaded and into the system as quickly as possible."
Other social media channels are also filling up with complaints. On Twitter, one user says: "It's absolutely ridiculous to have to wait for nearly an hour just to get a hold of a call centre agent." Another asks: "Why is your service horrible? Your call centre is worse than home affairs." Many users called for Telkom's agents to be trained in customer service.
Schofield says: "Lodging a complaint on Hellopeter allows at least some temporary release of the frustration (and the comfort of knowing others share your views) but is of little long-term value if there is no response from the supplier. The only way Telkom can redeem its reputation is if it responds to the complaints."
O'Sullivan says, while Telkom is trying to work out issues with its call centres, the company is also trying to encourage more people to lodge faults online.
"We need to try and shift customer behaviour to a more self-service environment, as we see in the US and Europe. However, such a behaviour shift will be dependent on trust, as people will only look to other options (such as self-reporting online or social media) if they are confident they will actually receive a response. This is where we need to do a lot of work, to help show our customers that they are, indeed, the focus of our business," says O'Sullivan.
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About Telkom South Africa:
Telkom SA SOC Ltd. is a wireline and wireless telecommunications provider in South Africa, and operating in more than 38 countries across the African continent. Telkom is a semi-privatised, 39% state-owned company.
Published: Monday, March 23, 2015