Brand Contact: Telkom Turnaround 


Four years ago Telkom embarked on their turnaround strategy. The strategy was an attempted of the brand to turn around its then dismal financial position by cutting its costs, management restructure, improving customer experience and most importantly becoming more efficient. This was the vision of newly appointed CEO Sipho Maseko.

At the point of implementation the company was at a point where it nearly halfed its staff over a few years from 20000 to 12000. This off course had a major impact on the business in how it was viewed from the outside as well as more significantly the internally. They were struggling with motivation and job satisfaction within the company. Brand commitment was at all time low.

Part of the Turnaround strategy was to re shape the company culture starting with its leaders. Their goal was to increase the brand loyalty and believe its employees had in the company. Besides working with employee unions the company launched an internal campaign to start the process. This campaign included staff share schemes, an attempt to make employees feel part of the business and motivated to achieve success.

Have a look at the internal campaign video. The video uses a range of emotional imagery to evoke a response within the employees. Images of South African sorting hero’s references to other well know companies. These vehicles are used to communicate the companies goals and vision to its team.

Along with the campaign the company relaunched its brand by giving the brand identity a face lift. This included dropping the keypad icon from its logo and replacing it with only the wordmark. A clean fresh approach. A reflection of what they want to be as a brand. This is captioned in the campaign tagline “Tomorrow Starts Today”

At the time Chief marketing officer Enzo Scarcella said the following “embarking on a new turnaround strategy for the entire group, and our new brand campaign reflects where we want to be. This is the first time that Telkom is taking such a strong brand position and we will make every effort to achieve the brand promise.”

After four years the results are positive, the company has seen remarkable improvement in its  bottom line but in my view the company has a long way to go.

Telkom by the numbers

        H12016                             2015                                  H12015
Revenue                               R20.2bn                          R37.3bn                           R16.8bn
Net profit                              R1.8bn                           R2.5bn                             R606m
Internet subscribers*            3.3m                              1m                                    2.6m
Mobile subscribers                  3.2m                              2.7m                                 2.6m
Fixed-line subscribers             3m                                3.2m                                 3.3m

Although the new look and financial results look great and does wonders for the company image there is still and inherent problem within the organization. Namely: Customer Service

Just google “Telkom service” and you will be confronted with hundreds of testimonials from unhappy customers. Service is the main touchpoint Telkom has with its customers. The “new” look is great, the tagline and vision fantastic but if the person on the other end of the line do not embrace this strategy and brand image it is worthless.

I am a Telkom customer myself and if I look at my customer journey the thing that sticks in my mind is the inconsistency. I have had instances where I would phone a technician to move my line to a new residence. The person on the other end is super helpful and the service delivered without any issues. The technician was on time, friendly and acted in professional manner. Compare this to a my experience of going into the Telkom Direct store. Here the environment was inline with what I expected. Décor wise and layout but the service was horrific. Firstly on a Saturday morning there are four service desks but only two consultants. The ques are long and when I eventually get to the front, the consultant is abrupt and makes no real attempt to solve my issue.

Then if I talk to friends or collogues they would tell stories of exactly the opposite. Technicians not pitching or when they do they are late or in-capable. There are thousands of similar stories.

What this tells me as an outsider is that the company is struggling to consistently communicate with its employees. Certain areas within the business are seeing the relevance and brand’s worth where others are simply demotivated and cannot care less to deliver on the brand promise.

To meet expectations of customers the company needs to improve employee training and embark on more development programs. They need to find ways to motivate employees. This needs to start at the top on a managerial level. It does not help if the CEO has this amazing vison for the company but it is public knowledge that he receives a massive bonus each year. What is this telling the worker down at ground level?

In order for employees to “live the brand” the company needs to embark on new ways to motivate and inspire employees. The internal marketing campaign referenced above was an attempt at this but the answer might be to take a more personalized approach. Instead of using sport stars use employees, let them tell their stories and speak about the values of the company. Focus groups and employee feedback sessions could give them more insight into problem areas. Maybe it time is the big issue and the company is simply understaffed to deal with the demand.

The company has massive potential to follow a customer-centric approach. It is after all a service driven company and by improving its internal company culture, motivating and inspiring employees it can truly turn around the company image

The company has massive potential to improve and follow a customer-centric approach. It is after all a service driven company and by improving its internal company culture, motivating and inspiring employees it can truly turn around the company image