Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The latest SA Customer Satisfaction Index (SAcsi) for Mobile Data Service Providers has shown that not only do South Africans feel little loyalty when it comes to data service providers, they’re also disappointed with their service.

There has been a consistent decline in terms of customer loyalty trends in the past three annual indices, with the industry average declining from 71.1% in 2014 to 59.2% in 2016.

Of the country’s data service providers, it is MTN’s customers who have the least brand loyalty, scoring 54.7%, almost 10% less than 2015. Telkom Mobile follows at 59.2%, compared with 67.7% last year. It seems that Cell C and Vodacom have done well against the customer loyalty industry average (59.2%) with scores of 61% and 61.6% respectively. But the score remains low in comparison to other industries measured in the SAcsi.

Added to the frustration that many SA consumers are feeling is that they have access to a limited number of mobile data service providers that are among the most expensive in the world, says Adré Schreuder, CEO of Consulta. Consumers feel they are being taken for a ride with high costs and would move to another service provider offering lower costs without a second thought. 

“The mobile data industry in SA is at an interesting crossroads,” says Schreuder. “Traditionally, mobile data was intended for use with cellular devices and apps suited to these devices – such as social media and text or chat apps. Most of these apps don’t necessarily consume a great deal of bandwidth and one could get away with less than one or two gigs of data at the very most. But this is changing as customer needs evolve and as a result, data consumption behaviour has also changed.”

As a result packages tailored for low-bandwidth usage no longer suffice. With the proliferation of video streaming and other bandwidth-intensive services customers are using much more data than they would have used two or three years ago. In many cases, mobile data providers are the only option as offerings such as ADSL, Wi-Fi or fibre are not readily available to the typical South African. This leaves consumers in a difficult position because mobile data remains expensive.

Schreuder adds that most modern smartphones require regular operating system software updates, which consume a considerable amount of data. Users therefore need to be in a Wi-Fi hotspot so that the upgrade does not deplete their data bundle. “It feels like we are not progressing as fast as the rest of the world and the gap is steadily increasing,” he says.

The key to maintaining customer loyalty lies in the ability to address the reasons consumers are so unhappy with their service and bridge the gaps. The service provider that can achieve this will undoubtedly be winning a greater share of the market. 

The big take-out: Results for SAcsi 2016 indicate that South Africans are dissatisfied with the service they receive from their mobile data service providers – consumers believe they’re being ripped off by high prices and have little brand loyalty.