After years of pervasive complaints about horrible customer service, Africa’s largest fixed-line telephone group — Telkom — is ‘finally’ proving naysayers wrong. By Gugu Lourie

Telkom is proving the Japanese proverb correct that “the most beautiful flowers grow from the rankest dirt”.

The company, which was once described as “Hell-Kom” because of its awful service to customers is starting to take its consumers seriously. It’s no wonder that the once popular parody Telkom website Hellkom is a shadow of its former glory.

I hope Telkom’s customer service score – which measures consumers’ satisfaction with services provided – improves drastically when the firm reports its next annual financial figures.

This thought came to my mind as I experienced this weekend what’s close to perfect customer satisfaction; if not perfect.

On Friday (26 August 2016), telephone lines and ADSL provided by Telkom were faulty.

At 14h00, I reported the fault to Telkom customer centre.

To my big surprise it took Telkom’s call centre agent, who identified herself as Gcina, a mere three seconds to answer the phone. Maybe I am exaggerating – it was ten seconds – it doesn’t matter it was not a minute. Wow, a great improvement from not being answered for hours.

I was really amazed as I was not subjected to the recorded music and the annoying automated voice telling me that our agents are very busy and they would be with you shortly.

Gcina registered the query and apologised for the network problem and thereafter assured me that everything will be sorted in no time.

“Please, Goo Goo, am not committing myself to anything but our allocated technician will sort the issue,” Gcina assured me.

In minutes, I received an SMS notification stating:

“Dear Customer, This is a progress update from Telkom SA. Your fault is in hand with our technical repair division.”

I thought to myself oh no, Telkom is going to take another week or two to sort out the faulty ADSL and telephone line.

As I needed to be connected to the digital world as a digital junkie, I quickly decided to Top Up my Afrihost Data SIM card with 4GB that came to R396.00 with VAT. I last used the Afrihost Data SIM before the company got hitched with MTN – and the marriage didn’t last. For more read: MTN dumps Afrihost after few months of marriage

The tariff of R396.00 charged by Afrihost is too pricey compared to my Telkom Softcap Double Data of 40GB/month at R130.70 excluding Telkom line rental.

That said, I left quickly for a meeting at Mall of The South as I didn’t expect a Telkom technician to come to fix the ADSL and telephone line. I have been accustomed to a crappy customer service from Telkom.

To my surprise at 17h00,  a Telkom or should I say an Openserve – Telkom subsidiary – technician called saying he was by the gate could I open for him to come fix the faulty ADSL and telephone line.

I nearly fell off from my chair at the Butcher Block Steakhouse at Mall of the South.

I took a chance and told him to come back in the morning and the great gentlemen obliged.

At 9 am on Saturday, he was busy fixing the faulty ADSL and telephone line.

For the first time, I realised that Telkom is seriously mending its nasty ways to deal with the consumer. I quickly then understood that as a customer, I also need to change my attitude towards Telkom.

Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko

As this unfolds quietly, I nippily remembered that Sipho Maseko – Telkom’s boss – appointed in 2013 was tasked with fixing Africa’s largest fixed-line telephone group. His main priorities were to define Telkom’s strategic direction, deal with poor customer service and cash guzzling mobile phone unit – Telkom Mobile (formerly Telkom 8ta) – in a competitive environment.

Making the big ship navigate the muddy waters was no easy task but despite attacks from market pundits, Maseko has stabilised Telkom. He and the team are also coming up with innovative products and solutions, and they are yet to fully unleash Business Connexion – an information technology company they bought for R2.7 billion.

Now Maseko is strategically changing the culture of Telkom to respond to the needs of its customers and ensuring revenue streams continues to grow unabated.

Maseko and his team of executives and the board led by Jabu Mabuza, have ‘saved’ Telkom and ‘turned its fortunes around’.

I just hope the great experience of this weekend is not only being tasted by us at

I hope that all the customers are getting the same treatment.

But as Morgan Freeman once said in a movie titled Shawshank Redemption,Remember hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies. But let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

He added: “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”

That said after speaking to an Openserve (remember a Telkom subsidiary) technician, I believe hope had set some of those retrenched Telkom technicians free.

The Openserve guy, who fixed our ADSL and telephone line is an ex-Telkom employee and believes that Telkom retrenchments had empowered him.

“I am now a contractor that ensures Telkom delivers a good service and in return I get paid a good amount to help clients through Openserve,” he explained.

He added that Telkom seems to be the only firm that does that to its retrenched staff members.

“It’s a good thing that they are doing after retrenching you. My brother, my retrenchment was sad after working for this company for close to a decade, but the support I get from my previous employer, Telkom, has empowered me to great lengths,” said a joyful Openserve contractor and former Telkom employee, who didn’t want to be named.

So it seems Telkom is delivering a good service as it benefits from outsourcing call centres and outsourcing technical work to retrenched technicians.

Openserve MD, Alphonzo Samuels (Photo credit: Openserve)

Clearly Alphonzo Samuels, the managing director for OpenServe, is doing a great job to improve Telkom’s customer focus and establish clearer lines of accountability through the OpenServe brand.

Let’s hope that Telkom continues to improve its customer service and empower more ex-employees.

Those ex-technicians and call centre agents with vast experience are vital in ensuring Telkom and Openserve continues to create a happy customer, a profitable customer centre partner and a viable technician, who is a contractor.

Maseko is committed to a great customer experience to take Telkom forward.

It’s time for former Telkom technicians to profit from Telkom after failing us for years. It’s also time for us sad Telkom users to get perfect customer service.


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  1. Telkom has been steadily improving aspects of its services over the years. What concerns me is that its business model is slowly becoming very outdated. Today a fibre package that provides the same service – infrastructure , last mile and OTT ISP – is less than a Telkom ADSL setup. What I really want to see is Telkom drastically reducing its prices on a largely capitalised copper network, then turn out very cheap low-end broadband of 1 to 4 mbps.

    Else this renewed vigor for the customer might prove too little to change the tide.

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