Vodacom is the best mobile operator in the country, period! However, the success doesn’t translate into their Fibre offering. They don’t own all the pieces of the puzzle and I think their processes aren’t geared toward this. Especially with how their support teams are setup. I’ve had two long-standing marathon support interactions over two months and it was not a pleasure.
Vodacom only offers telephone support, which means, every follow up is with a new agent who needs to grasp the issue and the history behind it. It is also up to the agent to update the case, which I’ve found not all agents do. This, however, is still a minor issue.
From the first time you call with something that cant be fixed by “turning it off and on again”, you realise that the first level of support is not empowered to solve issues. They are there to create an internal case, called a service request. This is also when you hear about the 48 hour SLA. Which means, it will take up to 48 hours for someone from the second line of support to look into your case. From experience, this SLA is an assignment target. So it could take up to 48 hours for the case to be assigned. Not looked into, not fixed, not resolved, just assigned. If this was solely in the Vodacom network, you probably wouldn’t have more issues, but the reality is, Vodacom the ISP still needs to speak to OpenServe, the Fibre Network Operator (FNO from now on).
If you’ve spent enough time around corporates you’ll know that the FNO probably has their own SLA. They probably have a similar SLA: 48 hours. Hypothetically, you’re always in a situation where your request could take up to 96 hours to be resolved. Well that’s the service level agreement, and from my experience, they always went over it. To date the two request both took more than 7 days to be resolved. Both requests were actually things an ISP had to deal with on a regular basis, so I couldn’t understand the delays.
The second problem is that most of the folks I’ve spoken to are contractors. This I gleaned from their email addresses and also lack of access to the tools that can solve customer issues. It seems that only the second line support folks are actually full time employees, but this is merely speculation. Though I think this disconnect has an affect on the quality support.
From multiple conversations with support personnel over the life time of my requests I also discovered that the escalation mechanism works in a weird way. Support contractors can’t really escalate. They can only request for it to be escalated. It seems that someone else then does the escalation. This escalation is also not really an escalation beyond the second line, it feels like more of a flag added to the request, which the second line seem to ignore completely.
The second line support folks are untouchable. The first line of support can’t call them. Only emails are allowed and replies seem to be optional. This is baffling in a telecommunications company. You can’t call the person to whom request was escalated to; to query delays or what the progress is. From my understanding, service requests go into a black box. It comes out only when it’s done, until then, the customer waits.
My last attempt was to try social media. The twitter folks at Vodacom were so nice, but even they couldn’t figure out what was happening and why there was a delay. They were the only people to call me to tell me that my query was resolved. That was special and the way the first-line support folks could operate to win at customer service.
My conclusion is this: the technical folks in the back office are either overburdened or under performing. Even if you hide this from the customer and the first line support. We can see that something is off and it gives such a lack of confidence. For me, working from home, this has actually pushed me to move to another provider.
My advice to Vodacom, would be to rethink their fibre support. Empower your first line to actually handle the cases. Allow the first line tighter integration into your organisation. Yes they are contractors, but they should be moving more towards customer champions. Back office folks should be held accountable by the folks dealing with customers directly.