Monday, November 30, 2015

Telkom: the story of poor service going absolutely nowhere

Message for Telkom from family 184CWK18115 - you suck!

HOW would you react to Perky Pizzas when after you’d ordered, and paid for your meal, the person behind the counter told you that their oven wasn’t working?  How would you react if a mechanic from Al’s Garage said your brakes were faulty, but after two weeks made no effort to fix them – or to return your car?

I’m sure you’d be outraged, and that the bad service of Perky Pizzas and Al’s Garage would see them out of business in a matter of months. Unfortunately, this basic principle – customer care – doesn’t seem to apply to our parastatals. The stories are legend; whether it’s the days’ of Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the SABC or PRASA’s Spanish locomotives and everybody’s favourite, Eskom’s “wet coal”, there always seems to be some kind of question about their governance and, especially, delivery.

But the biggest raspberry right now goes to Telkom, our “beloved” telecommunications corporation that doesn’t appear to know its digital from its analogue – or to put it more bluntly, its arse from its elbow.

You can have the best of systems, but if you don’t offer your customers real service, you’re a flop – and in the real world – you deserve to go out of business. Not so with Telkom, who can go on from one customer blunder to the other with impunity. In my case, the line that serves my house phone and my ADSL has been out of action for nearly two weeks. In fact, my whole road has been down due to a cable that was cut, probably by one of the tik addicts that haunt our Cape Town neighbourhood.

Everybody knows that the cable has been cut. Yet all that Telkom has been able to offer after a litany of daily complaints is a bulk SMS stating that “Telkom is aware of a cable-related fault” and that it is “investigating all available options”.

WTF, is the Twitter expression for such a response. “Investigating!?” Does Telkom need a committee and a tender process just to fix a broken line? If Telkom’s system seems to burp at the mere prospect of a broken cable, one can only wonder at what else is going on. The interesting thing, though, is that while Telkom officials have been polite and willing to help – they seem to be as stymied by the Telkom system as their disgruntled clients. My complaint has been “escalated” all over the place – but to no avail.

In sheer frustration I tried Hellopeter, the consumer complaints platform, and actually got a response from Telkom stating that my complaint had been “restored”.  Well, it’s been five days now, and I’m beginning to think that “restored” is yet another piece of meaningless Telkom technobabble.  

I put up a post on Facebook, curious to see what kind of response I would get to my Telkom blues. It was overwhelmingly negative, and quite a shock to see what other Telkom clients had been going through.

Fahmy Basardien of Cape Town had been trying to terminate his Telkom contract for six months, with no luck. Najma Khan from Lenasia had applied for an ADSL line that was never installed, but she had been billed anyway. Another Facebook user said that although they had an uncapped data package, Telkom would switch them off at the end of the month claiming they’d gone over the limit. “We use hardly any data, so have Telkom sold us more bandwidth than they can supply?” asked the user.

Yusuf Karim of Durban North said my experience was “typical” in his part of the world. Roshan Moerat from Paarl said that she had been waiting three months for Telkom to fix her problem. Nur Gillian Hankey, stated that when she moved to Paarl,Telkom had been unable to switch her system on. She had eventually migrated to another server. Faadiyah Jordan Hendricks said that her mother had had no service since September, with no resolution.

I could go on - and on. There is a serious issue  here – our telecommunications agency is clearly not delivering what it promises, and is clearly incapable of dealing with any follow ups. In short, this tells us that Telkom is haemorrhaging with inefficiency and ineptitiude.

But this is no consolation to so many thousands of household users in South Africa who need the lines to do business, and frustratingly, can’t. And so, Telkom – yet another parastatal gravy train going nowhere – ends up costing us unhappy consumers millions of rands, said by one analyst to be about R500 million a year.


Telkom, after two weeks and their "investigation", have just informed us that the cable will be replaced on 15 January 2016. This will be two months after the initial event, which is totally incompetent, unprofessional and grossly unsympathetic to the needs of those who need the internet to make a living. No-one in the private sector would ever be allowed to get away with this nonsense because their businesses would be closed down. The matter will be taken further - to the Public Protector, if needs be. Watch this space for fault number 184CWK181115....


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