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Reaction to DStv increase shows consumer apathy

DStv comment included. In the face of dissatisfaction, consumers don’t take action.

JOHANNESBURG –Is it a case of rather the devil you know or are South African customers less likely to take any action when experiencing dissatisfaction? The response this week to the imminent MultiChoice DStv price increases is an example of how many individuals complain but few are willing to find an alternative offering.

Christine Stearman, managing director and founder of research company The Solution Workshop, says that South African consumers are apathetic. Stearman asks: “How many people really send food back or complain or not pay for bad food/service or do we just take it on the chin?” Professor Andre Schreuder, founder of the South Africa customer satisfaction index, adds that locals generally have lower expectations of the service they receive.

Some subscribers felt that the increase was unjustified, as these comments show:

It’s bloody amazing that these jokers increase their prices every year but still continue to provide an absolutely poor service. It’s the simple things that they seem unable to get right like – starting and finishing times of programs, future information is not available on screen for programs merely says “additional information not available”- Grahamcr

DSTV Easy View goes up by 45%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s what, about NINE TIMES the official inflation rate? Some poor bugger is going to pay 45% more for a service that is PRECISELY the same as it is right now? – Davabee

However, Marietjie Groenewald Multichoice Manager of Issues Management and Stakeholder Communications says that DStv has not experienced an increase in customer complaints following the announcement of price. She says increases in complaints are usually related to factors that are outside of their control such as rain.

Groenewald emphasises that careful consideration went into the price increase decision.

“When we review the DStv bouquets prices, we consider all factors including the impact on different market segments. We revise our prices to accommodate the cost of the DStv service and to be able to continue to provide DStv to our customers. We try as much as we can to have minimal increase without compromising the quality of our service.”

A number of the comments on the DStv price increases related to dissatisfaction about the rising costs, the poor customer call centre service, the product offering, the number of repeats as well the length of ad time.

Groenewald concedes that DStv gets varied responses with regards to the repeats. She says that “Content is repeated to afford customers who missed their favourite programme an opportunity to see it. All local and international channels schedule content more than once to address this need.”

“We recently introduced themed movie channels to cater for different needs of our customers and make it easier for our customers to only select programmes that appeal to their mood or taste at a particular time. This has had a positive response from our customers,” she adds.

In a 2009 Solutions Workshop survey looking at consumer behaviour, it was mentioned that “DStv is weighted up in terms of “cost to entertainment” – for some it remains good value for money and they will hold onto it; for others it is a luxury and they are cancelling or down-grading.”

Whether or not DStv subscribers will cancel their contracts or downgrade due to the price increase is unclear; many of the comments responding to the price increase mentioned that there was not a viable alternative, such as these on Twitter:

It’s terrible when there is not enough competition in the industry. Companies/people can just milk you dry and you don’t really have many other alternatives…- Alex1688

The thing is DSTV know that they are sitting on a gold mine with the live sports for which they have made sure they signed up most of the sporting codes for many, many years – Dawie Kabooter

Stearman believes that DStv customers may respond by doing nothing because they really do not have an alternative. “Do South Africans really have an alternative? I do not believe that TopTV is seen as a real alternative so maybe the way that especially younger consumers might go is to download series and programmes and watch it either on TV or PC”.

In 2012 TopTv launched a prepaid offering which, because of its claimed fewer service calls, bills, and [lower] reconnection fees, would significantly cut down the amount of interactions an individual would have with a service provider. The consumer satisfaction index has highlighted that the more interaction is required between service providers and clients, the lower the levels of satisfaction.

However, as far as the numbers go, DStv is on the up. In its November interim results, parent company Naspers said 187 000 subscribers had been added to the SA base, with a total of 4,2 million households. The Compact bouquet, which has seen significant uptake in the black middle class market, accounted for 87% of growth.

According to an independent survey conducted by Ask Africa in 2012 looking at service delivery, DStv took pole position in the entertainment category.

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