Social media and customer insights business BrandsEye has published its South African Telecommunications Sentiment Index for 2020, gauging how consumers feel about the country’s biggest mobile networks.
The index, in partnership with Deloitte, is based on an analysis of over two million social media posts between 1 January 2020 and 31 December 2020, which are assigned sentiment scores based on their content.
Sentiment scores are either positive, negative or neutral, and measure overall satisfaction and opinion towards a brand. The data points included Twitter, Facebook, and multiple additional online sources, BrandsEye said.
Each network provider was given a ‘net sentiment’ score, which is the value left after subtracting the total negative score from the positive score. If South Africans are more positive towards a brand than negative, the net score will be positive.
According to the group’s findings, no mobile operator in South Africa achieved positive sentiment in 2020, while the telecommunications sector performed worst out of all industries covered by BrandsEye.
MTN was found to have the lowest level of negative sentiment, and thus can be called the ‘best’ network in the country by this measure. Newcomer to the index, Rain, ranked as the worst with the highest level of negative sentiment.
“Having recorded the lowest negative sentiment and highest positive sentiment, MTN ranked first in terms of Net Sentiment. Unexpectedly, Cell C – whose survival came into question in 2020 – placed second,” BrandsEye said.
Sentiment for all networks are better than they were in the 2019 ranking; however, the previous report only tracked sentiment over a three-month period, and excluded Rain.
Why so negative?
A common thread of poor service levels dominated the sentiment around all operators in the country, BrandsEye said.
From the four major categories, service levels drew the highest amount of negative sentiment, followed by network quality, pricing and then value.
Customers highlighted slow turnaround times in dealing with service complaints, while being redirected to multiple contact points, never hearing back from the networks on issues they’ve raised, or simply never receiving a response, were also points of annoyance.
BrandsEye noted that Covid-19 lockdowns exacerbated the strained relationship between operators and customers, leading to more complaints over this period.
“A month into lockdown, service complaints saw a steep increase, remaining consistently above pre-lockdown levels for the rest of the year,” BrandsEye said.
“While this could indicate that increased reliance on connectivity upped expectations and demand for service, it could also suggest network providers were unable to maintain the same level of pre-pandemic service during lockdown.”
Turnaround time was also the biggest driver of cancellation threats, the data showed.
None of the country’s operators came through lockdown unscathed – though Vodacom had the least amount of complaints about turnaround time. Rain fared the worst.
Rain also recorded the most negativity around network downtime, which led to a considerably higher prevalence of risk conversation, and threats of abandoning the network operator.
MTN and Vodacom, meanwhile saw above-industry levels of risk related to accusations of unethical behaviour. Reports of data vanishing, or depleting abnormally, were the main source of these accusations for both operators.
Cell C staff’s response to their employer’s retrenchment plans was reflected in the operator’s high prevalence of boycott-related risk.