Telkom – part of the post-truth world

January 11, 2017 § 6 Comments

Another Wednesday, another customer service blog post. And this time it’s Telkom, a company that is there – in supreme irony – to facilitate communication.

Because a lack of customer service is one thing – we have come to expect that from South African parastatals. But it’s the total lack of communication – and the blatant lying about such communication – that drives me to write this post.

On 28 December 2016 my ADSL stopped working. I was driving back to Johannesburg that day, so I reported it the following day. I knew it would take a while to have it repaired as we were going into all the New Year holidays, but we are now a third of the way into January and it remains non-functional.

I’m sure at least some of you think this is a first world problem, but a good internet connection is actually essential to how I make a living – I am self-employed, and as a journalist I need access to email and the internet every day. I am limping along thanks to a friend’s mobile wifi device, but I hate using all his data, and the signal isn’t always great, so it’s not ideal. But without that, I would be well and truly screwed, and forking out money I don’t have hand over fist, to run off mobile data.

For once the Telkom call centre hasn’t been entirely useless. My first follow-up call must have sparked someone into action, because my second follow-up call yesterday revealed that a technician had been assigned to my fault – on 6 January. It is the 11th today. I’m not sure if that technician is on leave, or if he’s just supremely busy, but either way, some sort of meaningful communication from Telkom to me would be hugely helpful.

I say ‘meaningful’ because I have chatted to Telkom’s ‘helpline’ on Twitter in an effort to find out what’s going on. Chatting to the slugs in my garden would have been just as helpful. At least they would shuffle off slimily and ignore me, and not pretend to be taking my problem seriously. Several times I have tweeted @HelloTelkom, direct messaged them, asked nicely, said ‘please’ and each time I get a stock standard response – feedback will be communicated to me. They are no help at all. Perhaps they only know how to say ‘hello’ and promise feedback.

Look, I know ‘communicated’ is a big word, and ‘feedback’ has eight letters too, but I’m not sure they really know what it means. It’s really simple. It means you talk to me, as if I’m a human being (because really, I am), and tell me what the problem is. You don’t just roll out an answer from the six versions of the same lie that are printed out in your social media script. You take my reference number – the one I provided at your request – and you follow it up. You find out how far it is. You talk to the mythical technician who’s been assigned to my fault and find out when he’s expecting to get to me, and you give me some actual information.

Even better, you ask him to call me and tell me when he plans to attend to the fault – because at least that way I know whether there really is some light at the end of the tunnel or not, and I know how long I can expect to have to make alternative arrangements.

I can accept that perhaps I’m on a list, in a queue behind some other people, and that’s okay. But don’t promise me feedback and then go silent. Just tell me what the delay is. Because I’m over here paying for a service that I’m not receiving, and it’s having an impact on my work. The work that pays my rent. Is that so hard to understand?

The thing that enrages me as a customer, is not so much the shoddy, slow service – although it’s annoying, of course. The thing that drives me batshit crazy is that none of these organisations communicates well. Communication is a two-way street, and most of the time, they just have people with fishing nets to catch the incoming communication from customers – and that’s the end of it. Nothing comes in the other direction when it really matters – unless they want to sell you something. And the response to your communication is often just a pacifying pat on the head – we’ve answered you, now go away.

And when all the customers do go away, and they have to close the doors, they’ll wonder why.

The saddest part for me, is that I’ve spent years defending Telkom, because they’ve always given me excellent service. I’ve honestly never had to wait more than 24 hours for them to come and sort me out. This experience, however, has left a very bitter taste in my mouth. No one likes to be lied to.


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§ 6 Responses to Telkom – part of the post-truth world

  • Kobus Steyn says:

    Hope your problem soon get solved. But as a person with Afrikaans as first language, I loved your excellent use of the english language, and
    i have also learnt a few new words.


  • ysbeer13 says:

    I’m in the same situation with MTN. I ordered a dongle which was approved on 17 November. Same feedback on Twitter “Your query has been escalated to management, someone will contact you shortly.”


  • Gus Silber says:

    Hope you get “sorted” soon, Mandy! I’ve just cancelled my Telkom lines as a result of getting fibre, and it’s a good feeling. They’re a big, cumbersome organisation that seems to be having difficulty adapting to the 21st Century. One of the great things about the fibre revolution is that it is forcing Telkom to become competitive. There are now so many other options. And a big part of being competitive means delivering better service, so let’s hope they learn some sort of lesson from your experience.


    • Thanks, Gus. I received a very grumpy call from a technician this evening and he assured me he’d be here tomorrow. As soon as fibre is available I’ll be moving across.


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