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A customer story about Cell C


To deliver an efficient and innovative outsourcing solution for Cell C’s prepaid customer care function, which will support its cost reduction objectives and differentiation through service excellence. To support the operator’s growth strategy by providing ongoing partnership support and access to a pool of skilled agents.


Introduction of a fully outsourced prepaid service centre, led by an experienced leadership team and underpinned by a competitive pricing model. Enabling the internal transfer of core business services, with no breaks in service, to support cost reduction, market growth and job creation objectives.


  • Growth in customer retention and overall market share
  • Recruitment of approximately 1 million new customers a month
  • NPS and CSI customer happiness scores up at 75%
  • Average Speed to Answer dropped by 60%
  • 50% reduction in overall abandon rates
  • 19% reduction in operational costs in one year
  • Job creation opportunities through revised staffing model
  • Creation of skilled youth employment opportunities for over 100 first time work entrants


Cell C is one of South Africa’s largest mobile phone operators and offers a wide range of products and services, including voice, data and messaging services to more than 13 million customers. As a relative newcomer, Cell C’s initial low cost penetration and retention strategy had been based on highly competitive pricing models. With a new leadership team at the helm, Cell C was focused on driving growth through new market and pricing strategies that would boost market share and customer retention rates.

To do this, Cell C needed to evolve its customer management function away from an on-premise outsourcing approach, and address specific contact centre challenges across the following areas:

External Market Conditions

To effectively compete in an oversaturated market, with more SIM cards in circulation than subscribers, Cell C needed to radically improve its network coverage and address operational performance challenges to differentiate itself through the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

Financial Pressures

Cell C has already invested heavily in its infrastructure, to establish a solid network platform and gain access to equivalent competitor discounts. At the same time, external shareholders needed the organisation to demonstrate profitability through effective cost reduction measures. Cell C’s requirement to ‘do more with less’ meant reducing operating budgets and customer management costs. The mobile operator needed an outsource partner that could support the move and management of core business opportunities in house, while delivering a prepaid outsourced contact centre based on an efficient commercial pricing model.

Cell C needed to radically improve its network coverage and address operational performance challenges to differentiate itself through the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

Customer Behaviour

In a price sensitive market, customer churn levels were high and highlighted the need for an effective customer retention plan. High abandon rates, network issues and increased social media channel use pointed to the urgent requirement for a customer communication strategy, that would strengthen brand perception and reinforce consistent service delivery.

Operational Issues

Existing operations were under strain due to a rapid growth in market share, and technical network challenges were fuelling customer frustration. Call handling times were higher than planned, which had a major influence on overall performance. With inconsistent customer service standards and delivery interruptions on site, Cell C needed to optimise existing operations and ensure effective management control over its core and non-core business functions. To address higher rates of agent attrition and absenteeism, the operator needed a workforce management solution that would support and measure agent performance, while reinforcing positive communication and job security.


Cell C’s initial engagement with Merchants comprised an outsource service contract for an on-premise contact centre to handle all aspects of its customer management function including: prepaid, contract, back-office, retention and technical enquiries. Under new leadership, Cell C needed an experienced outsource partner with a proven track record in the prepaid market, and the ability to provide scalable solutions across multiple regions.

To help drive a fresh approach in evolving existing operations and reducing costs, Merchants invested in a new management team with proven experience in contact centre transformation. Using the Contact Centre Development Model (CCDM) to assess Cell C’s contact centre, Merchants and Cell C leaders jointly crafted an operational blueprint to develop a robust strategy for effective service delivery. Merchants and Cell C entered into a renewed agreement, under which Merchants would deliver Prepaid Cell C Customer Care services, while supporting the internal transfer and management of core business services under a new Service Provision Agreement.

Existing skilled contact centre agents were transferred back to Cell C operations under s197 of the Labour Relations Act, and Merchants continues to provide Cell C with ongoing access to its skilled agent pool to support its staffing model, with tiered career and contact centre succession planning.

Under the new agreement, the fully outsourced prepaid centre is based on a competitive pricing model, and the move to bespoke facilities includes Merchants’ CCaaS technology platform, telephony, ACD centre management and workforce management tools. Revised KPIs and routine performance reviews ensure a structured and sustainable approach to operational management and control.


Knowledge sharing and an open exchange of ideas bear testament to Cell C’s close partnership relationship with Merchants. In identifying opportunities for improvement, Cell C’s decision to evolve its prepaid customer management function to a fully outsourced operation has helped boost customer retention, and grow overall market share by approximately 1 million new customers a month.

Cost Reductions

Cell C hopes to access equivalent competitor discounts through its significant investment in a solid network platform, which now covers most of the country’s population. The mobile operator continues to offer unrivalledpricing models, and contact centre operational expenditure has dropped by a fifth over a year through an effective commercial pricing deal structure.

Customer Challenges

Careful identification of operational issues has enabled efficient management of customer communication channels, using automation where appropriate. Average Handle Time (AHT) has dropped by a remarkable 66 seconds a call and Average Speed to Answer is down 60%.

Cell C measures of Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) – both globally recognised benchmarks in customer happiness – are both at 75%. All performance benchmarks incorporate quantitative and qualitative measures, and customer brand perception has improved. Regular positive customer feedback continues to fuel a new approach to customer management and service delivery.


The dramatic improvement in overall abandon rates by nearly 50% has helped strengthen contact centre performance. With performance results falling within a best practice range of global benchmarks, the growth in Cell C’s client base has enabled Merchants to support its goals of job creation. The transfer of core business functions in house resulted in no job losses or service interruptions, and Merchants’ revised staffing model has seen 85% of its skilled agents appointed directly, with an aim to increase this to 95% within a year. Merchants’ partnership with Harambee has also led to sustainable employment opportunities for 106 first time work entrants, to help address the gap in youth employment. All agents have individual key performance objectives that are backed by reward and recognition schemes and effective internal communication, and staff absenteeism is down by 2%.

Going Forward

With all contractual operating targets being met and exceeded, Merchants looks forward to supporting Cell C’s continued transformation objectives through its mutual partnership that is based on trust and transparency.

Services Overview​

  • Fully outsourced prepaid customer contact centre with efficient pricing model
  • Contact centre development model assessment to establish evolution strategy
  • Job creation through trained agent pools and youth employment opportunities
  • Seamless transfer of operations in house with no breaks in service
  • Effective workforce management, technology platform and customer service measures
  • Focus on continuous business and operational improvement to Cell C’s business strategy

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