Long Telkom call centre hold-times

Telkom has encouraged customers to use alternative options when reporting faults with its services in an effort to reduce long waiting times at its call centre.

“We are having quite a difficult time at the moment and it has, unfortunately, had a negative impact on our customers’ experience,” said Telkom’s Jacqui O’Sullivan,

“Firstly, we must apologise for the inconvenience or any delays our customers may be experiencing when contacting our Telkom call centres.”

She said the long holding times were a result of high call volumes, which Telkom found were mainly due to its subscribers requiring telephonic support to reset passwords and reconfigure modem settings after load shedding.

Heavy rains and electrical storms across South Africa also had an adverse effect on customers’ ADSL services, said O’Sullivan.

“Gauteng, in particular, is predisposed to heavy rains at this time of year and the province’s high water table often results in the flooding of underground access infrastructure.”

Flash flooding could cause faults, but it also restricts Telkom’s technical teams from accessing the fault zones, causing delays in repair times, she added.

Unplug your computer equipment

O’Sullivan recommended that users unplug all electronic devices during a thunderstorm to avoid power surges damaging equipment .

“Modems are especially susceptible, because a harmful power surge can reach the modem in two ways — through the electrical power grid and through the telephone line to which the modem is connected.”

A modem must therefore be unplugged from the wall and telephone socket.

Call centres understaffed?

The reported long holding times at Telkom’s call centres comes after the operator did not renew the contracts of 480 contact centre staff in December 2014.

Asked how the purge would affect Telkom’s call centre, O’Sullivan said at the time they were comfortable they had sufficient capacity to handle call volumes.

She reaffirmed this when asked about the recent problems at their call centre, saying they had not closed any of their call centre operations.

Legacy systems

O’Sullivan said there is a huge amount of work going into developing better systems to manage their customer engagement.

She said they are currently working on extremely outdated systems — 17 different systems overall that don’t “speak” to one another — resulting in agents having to duplicate work and keep customers on the line for a lot longer than should be necessary.

Telkom is busy developing a unified system to address this inefficiency, but O’Sullivan said that what’s more important is the need to try and shift customer behaviour to be more more self-service oriented – similar to 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.”

She admitted that this is where Telkom needs to do a lot of work. “To help show our customers that they are, indeed, the focus of our business and that we are working to improve the status quo.”

Resolving the backlog

O’Sullivan said that clearing the backlog of their call centre is their top priority and there will be a marked improvement in the service soon.

“By allocating staff to other customer channels, such as social media and online reporting, we are working to get customer faults uploaded and into the system as quickly as possible.”

Alternative fault reporting lines

O’Sullivan went on to encourage customers to look at other ways to reports faults, such as the Telkom website, its mobile Android and iOS apps, and via SMS.

“We have agents staffing those alternative options and we are able to turn responses around more quickly and efficiently through these online channels.”

To log a fault via SMS, clients can text “SERVICE” and their number to 30591.

“Customers may also tweet Telkom via @TelkomZA or post on the TelkomZA Facebook page. We have a dedicated digital team working to gather the necessary information directly from our customers. The team then connect with the technical support to resolve the query.”

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Long Telkom call centre hold-times