Vodacom, MTN and Cell C are Not Keeping their Customers Happy

SA Cellular Networks increasingly undifferentiated when it comes to customer satisfaction.

woman wearing beanie with smartphone on ear. Photo by Fezbot2000 on Unsplash

The South African cellular network industry has improved in the customer satisfaction stakes according to the latest South African Customer Satisfaction Index (SA-csi) for Mobile Telecommunications Services, conducted by Consulta.

SA’s three largest cellular networks, Cell C, MTN and Vodacom, have all recorded improvements in satisfaction since the 2018 measures, however, long-term trends indicate a degree of inconsistency when it comes to keeping their customers happy. One pertinent finding is that Customer Expectations have consistently declined over a four-year period. This is cause for concern as declines in Customer Expectations have been proven to foreshadow inevitable drops in Perceived Quality, value and ultimately overall satisfaction.

The 2019 SA-csi for Mobile Telecommunications Services surveyed just over 2500 customers across pre-paid, top-up and post-paid (contract) customers who make use of the collective product offering of voice and data solutions. The survey was conducted during the second half of 2019.

“An overt focus on competing with each other on price and network coverage has come at the expense of customer satisfaction and loyalty, leaving the industry vulnerable to new entrants, substitutes, and brand switching as consumers are increasingly looking for alternatives,” explains Ineke Prinsloo, Head of Customer Insights at Consulta.

“The index shows that customers perceive South Africa’s cellular rivals as homogenous, with brands offering very little differentiation for customers to compare offerings, other than price.”

The industry’s customer expectations score has declined to its lowest point since the inception of the study seven years ago.

Mobile data continues to remain a contentious issue with customers frequently complaining about their respective network’s data network quality and giving particularly low perceived value ratings (less than 70 for each network). This, coupled with a lack of differentiation, gives new players an opportunity to make inroads and attract customers who are looking for a more customer-centric offering that is better suited to their unique needs.

While Vodacom and MTN remain at the forefront in the premium segment for now, the latest index shows increasing erosion of this position as customers become less concerned with the quality of voice networks, placing more emphasis on mobile data offerings and services.

Overall SA-csi score (Satisfaction, with a significant impact on Loyalty)·

On overall Customer Satisfaction score, no mobile network leads, with all coming in either on, or below the industry par (74.9).

  • Vodacom comes in on par with an overall score of 76.1 which is a slight increase on its previous score.
  • MTN follows on par at 75 and has shown a marked improvement from its 2018 score of 71.8 which suggests that measures to halt the decline are bearing fruit.
  • Cell C comes in below par at 71.9 and much of this has to do with consistently declining perceptions of value, together with relatively low satisfaction with the quality of Cell C’s data network.

The overall customer satisfaction index score is an indicator of customer loyalty and should serve as a red flag that no brand is leading on this front. The more homogenous and undifferentiated the networks become to consumers, the greater the challenge to attract clients. This is an incredibly difficult position to be in and makes the sector ripe for disruption by players with newer, better technology and pricing structures.

Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures the likelihood that customers will recommend a brand to their family and friends (promoters) compared to customers who would actively discourage a relationship with the brand (detractors). The Net Promoter Score average across the industry took a massive dip, dropping from 37.4% in 2017, to just 19.9% in 2018 and then picking up to 28.1% in 2019.

  • Vodacom has the highest NPS score of 34.8% followed by Cell C at 24.1% and then MTN at 21.1%.
  • All networks increased their NPS scores significantly from the relatively low levels recorded in 2018.

Complaints and Complaint Resolution

At an industry level, complaint incidence average is at 32.6% and complaint resolution is at 60.9 out of 100.

Complaint Resolution has a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty. The Cellular Network complaints incidence of 32% is exceptionally high compared to other industries – ideally, complaints should be below 10%.

  • MTN’s complaint incidence is the lowest in the industry at 30.3%, an improvement on the previous year’s score of 33.4%. MTN also has the highest complaint resolution rate at 69.1. Vodacom has the highest complaint incidence across the industry at 34.4%, followed by Cell C at 31.9%.
  • In terms of complaint resolution, Vodacom scores 58.4 and considering that incidence is 34.4%, suggests that a large portion of customer complaints are being poorly resolved.
  • Whilst complaint rates are high, Cell C, MTN and Vodacom all recorded lower incidence rates compared to the previous measure in 2018.
  • Across the board, it is clear that not enough attention is being given to resolving the cause of the complaints to prevent repeat occurrences – this is evident in the very high rate of complaints when compared to other industries benchmarked by the SA-csi.
  • Together with issues related to data, a big bone of contention for customers are call centres, which require significant effort and aggravation in working through pre-recorded menu options and being sent from pillar to post before getting through to a person for assistance.


  1. I wonder why Telkom and Rain are not included… anyway for me Cell C is tops and resolves issues faster than all other networks. Yes they may not have the best network overall but where it has coverage it has improved massively that complaints are less and they no longer have that reputation of bad network. MTN and Vodacom have bad customer services and I’ve used them but my primary sim is Cell C and I’m happy on how responsive they are and they’ve always been like this. I personally will not be leaving them, I just wish their data prices would be as affordable as Rain unlimited but as for the quality of the network and customer care I’m super happy.

  2. MTN and Unisa partnership for free data to write exams. MTN customer service is shocking. Nobody knows anything about anything. Trying for 2 weeks to activate new MTN simm to receive free data for Unisa, but customer care has no willingness to sort out anything. Surprised MTN still in business !


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