MultiChoice Taken To Task


One of Screen Africa’s readers Jonathan Aldridge has been moved to express his complaints publically about MultiChoice’s  service.  Screen Africa requested a reply to the letter of complaint and at the time of posting the story on the website on Monday 22 October, MultiChoice still had not replied.  Screen Africa has now received a reply from MultiChoice which we run here.:

Jonathan Aldridge writes:

Is there anything than can be done  to cause Multichoice to improve its customer service?

The monopoly satellite broadcaster seems to be run by nameless and faceless individuals as it seems impossible to contact anyone with any real responsibility or authority.

Despite regular hikes in the subscription costs, Multichoice continues to provide very poor service, with a seemingly  “take-it-or-leave it’ attitude :

  • Repeat programmes abound (notwithstanding scheduled repeats per day/per week)

Repeats form part of any pay television offering across the world. They are not a South African phenomenon.
We provide repeats because our customers request them. Our research and ratings show that viewers enjoy the fact that they have more than one opportunity to watch a particular program or movie. Despite this, our repeat patterns are among the lowest in the world. This has been confirmed by a global study that was commissioned to benchmark repeat patterns of movie channels.  Although we provide repeats for the convenience of our customers, we continually look at opportunities to enhance the DStv bouquets. MultiChoice constantly monitors the repeat patterns to ensure that they are within the agreed number of repeats.

  • Dish magazine is inaccurate and provides the barest minimum of information (ie, no series number and episode information …)

MultiChoice makes every effort to ensure that all information provided in the DISH/ Skottel magazines are correct at the time of going to print. (which is a two month lead time) Information therein, is supplied to MultiChoice, by the channels, and MultiChoice is not at liberty to make changes to any programme information.

Unfortunately should a channel need to change its schedule after we have gone to print, we cannot rectify the print edition.
To mimimise the impact on our customers viewing pleasure, MultiChoice advises its customers to also refer to the EPG – which will provide access to the most up to date information. Our EPG team are able to make the relevant changes/ updates on screen as soon as they are informed by the channels. Viewers can also consult, which will supply the most up to date information.

  • Despite regular complaints (including to the BBC itself) DSTV still has no “live feed’ to inform customers of (eg) transmission errors / problems / changes

Channel / programme information is supplied to MultiChoice, by the channel/s. The on screen option is the only “live feed’ option available.  Should there be changes to the programme information, MultiChoice’s EPG editors rectify the information on screen, as and when they receive the information. Every effort is made to ensure that the information displayed on screen, is accurate.  However there are instances where the changes may not occur timeously. To provide a more efficient on air service, the MultiChoice EPG editor is available both during the week and during  weekends, should changes be necessary. Other alternate sources of the most up to date information can be found on MultiChoice is constantly implementing initiatives to improve our customers experience, and we appreciate any feedback our customers provide.

  • “Taggart’ (ActionX) has been shown where one episode started and continued after a half hour filler and another started half-way through [Tues 21 Aug, 21.00]

MultiChoice has investigated this anomalie and found that this was broadcast in error. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused. Measures have been adopted to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.

  • Customer service operators appear to be poorly trained, insisting that (eg) BBCp is a live feed when much of the programming (?1800 – close) is a broadcast of tapes supplied to DSTV

Our MultiChoice employees in the Call Centre have advanced training on operations and customer services.  It is unfortunate that the incorrect information was provided with regards to the BBC Prime channel.  However, BBC is currently working on ways to ensure that all BBC channels to MultiChoice have all their programmes played out directly from the United Kingdom.  The quality of service delivered to our customers by our customer service representatives are constantly monitored and where necessary improvements are identified and implemented

  • Poor decoder software that requires rebooting more than one would expect [also for their PVRs]

The PVR where you have two independent viewing environments off as single decoder is a first of its kind in the world and is made up of over 2 million lines of programming code. The PVR is also part of a complex broadcast value chain. As such some conditions which may cause instability and result in a reboot may be overlooked in the code and test procedures. However,since its launch in November 2005, several new releases of software have been made onto the PVR base to address these issues. We will continue to do so and the next release, which enhances stability and includes additional functionality and value to customers is scheduled for distribution late this year.  To reinforce this point we launched with software version 4 and are now on software version.

  • Very poor time response when contacting their customer service dept (by definition, late-ish at night)

We take all the necessary measures to ensure that call waiting times are minimised, though there are times when waiting times are increased due to an unexpected increase in the volume of incoming calls. We have introduced an “overflow’ call centre to help combat this.

We have also introduced the following systems and processes to further assist customers 

  1. Self help – via internet and speech recognition via IVR (interactive voice recognition) – customers are allowed to speak to a customer service representative at any stage during the transaction, they can immediately be transferred by saying ‘transfer me’ or pushing the # key. Customers are immediately routed to a service representative should they experience problems with the IVR. We have listed potential technical problems and together with this offer the solution to the problem. Shortly we will introduce the full speech recognition system which allows the customers to provide a brief description of their query, allowing for the call to be routed to the correct IVR application or agent.
  2. SMS customer notifications – *120*11304# Pay your account
  3. Check your balance: SMS “bal + smart card number’ to 31401
    Reset your decoder: SMS “error code + smart card number’ to 31401
    E17 + smartcard number to 32443
    Find an installer: SMS “residential postal code’ to 33936 for five installers in your area.
  4. Branch queuing system – this assists with effectively managing queues throughout the course of the day
  5. The quality of service delivered to our customers by our customer service representatives at our branches are constantly monitored via audio and video and where necessary improvements are identified and implemented.
  6. website – Billing Calculator ,Transaction History, Payment, Set Recurring Payments, Reconnect Service, Decoder / Smartcard Reauthorisation, Balance Enquiry
  7. Voice Genie – Balance enquiries , Decoder Resets, Voice Genie for Technical assistance on Option 4


  • An unhealthy monopoly that prevents subscribers from subscribing to the BBC (etc) direct … [Hopefully  this will change with the announcement of new satellite broadcasters.]

MultiChoice does not dissuade its customers from making direct contact with the BBC or any other channel, and has in many instances provided channel contact information, to interested parties.
BBC and other channels would require a platform to broadcast their channel/ s from, and this is how DStv is able to broadcast the various channels to over 1. 3million subscribers.


  • If DStv chooses to target the mainly the LSM10 market, it should provide LSM10 customer service.  The culture of seemingly “polite incompetence’ that pervades customer service in South Africa seems to be corporate culture at Multichoice! 
  • Multichoice’s future competitors should do very well if they provide top-quality viewing.  They will do even better if, from the outset, they adopt an attitude of listening and responding positively to the clients who pay their salaries.

More than 50% of MultiChoice employees are dedicated to
operational issues and customer service. Supervisors and duty managers monitor the nature of calls, and provide further support in order to meet our objectives of a “delightful resolution’.

MultiChoice’s mission is to always strive towards providing a service of world class standards, and thus your recent unsatisfactory experience is regarded with all seriousness.

We have a service philosophy which includes a customer-focused policy.  We do our best to provide you, our valued subscriber, with superior service.  Please be assured of our best service and intentions at all times.

MultiChoice has increased staff capacity in our branches, for both the call centre staff complement as well as over the counter assistance.
Supervisors have also adopted a “back to the floor’ initiative , whereby they take calls and assist customers, in order to be fully aware of the nature of complaints and thereafter improve service  levels if this is required.



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