Richard Mulholland
    • Richard kicked off his career as a rock n roll roadie, operating lights for bands such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. From there he started SA's largest presentation firm, Missing Link and co-founded 21Tanks, SA's first perspective lab.

      Richard is a highly regarded speaker. When not addressing many of South Africa's top corporations, he guest lectures on courses for The Cape Graduate School of Business (GSB), and the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).

      As well as blogging on, Richard is a columnist for Longevity and Destiny Man magazines.

      He has a tattoo of your Mum on his left bum cheek...!

    • Rich started and grew Missing Link to be the largest Presentation firm in South Africa. Never one to be satisfied with stagnation, Rich has made use of his advanced years to accomplish a fair amount. He bred again, tattooed his back, owns two houses, and now rides a Vespa (after failing his learner’s…). They grow up so fast… He also co-founded our sister company – 21Tanks!
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How not to do customer loyalty, a lesson from MTN

Before I start I’d like to say that I can’t stand what a whiney culture we’ve become. Consumers use social media bully tactics to force their hand and brands are judged in the court of public opinion. As such I have intentionally avoided taking this online. It is only now, weeks after it all started, that I’ve given up hope and decided to relay the story.

So a few months ago I was inducted into MTN’s loyalty programme – Prestige. Eight months later, I’m out again. Have a look through this short preso to understand what went down (there’s some emails here, full screen will be best).

That’s 8-months from cradle-to-grave. Nice.


Actually, that’s not true. It’s actually 18-years. I received my first phone on my 21st birthday (a fact that my 10-year old son struggles to comprehend).

The upside of course is that I’m a speaker on customer service, material like this is worth far more than the cost of a new iPhone 5s – a fact that I mentioned when I eventually forced my way into an email conversation.

As of this writing, I still have not received a single bit of contact directly.

So what’s the lesson? The lesson is simple, this loyalty thing, it’s about people. MTN has forgotten that, they’ve made it about spreadsheets. The irony here is that had they just never bothered to sign me up in the first place, we all would have been a lot better off.

In utility business, the customer doesn’t expect the lights to be shot out, if the service sold to us works, we’re happy and quiet. Happy and quiet means loyal. MTN’s mistake is that they tried to get fancy here (it should be noted that the programme itself is run by a “service” provider – PLP).

I guess at least they were right about one thing (thanks Ian), the share is indeed mightier than than the like, so if you don’t like this…


Well done guys, you’ve managed to properly fuck-up 18 good years…!

November 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm | 44 comments

44 responses to “How not to do customer loyalty, a lesson from MTN”

  1. This is crazy… and stupid.

    I’m assuming you’re leaving MTN… for Vodacom? So, in short, because you wanted the free phone they touted, they’re saying goodbye to a guaranteed R12000 p/a multiplied by however many years you planned on spending with them further (decades more)? Insofar as the cost of the phone [and the value of your HUGE online presence, as pointed out in that one email] on offer is less than your spend, it’s just free money anyways.

    I’m no accounting – I sing songs – but that seems to be pretty bad business.

  2. iona minton says:

    Sadly MTN are not the only culprits. I have had massive issues with Nashua mobile. My bill was R5k pm and I decided to do an audit. I found all sorts of charges and add on’s that I did not approve. The emails to sort It out were an exercise in futility. When problems arose Nashua tattled on MTN and MTN tattled on Nashua a nice game of shift the blame while the customer sits with the problem. They are spectacularly short sighted given your sphere of influence. Notwithstanding your headache NO-ONE deserves to be treated like this. To me it shows rank amateurs heading up their rewards programmes. I eventually coughed 8K to cancel the contacts prematurely just to get out of their clutches.

  3. Dino van der Merwe says:

    Oh the irony…

    pres·tige (pr-stzh, -stj)
    1. The level of respect at which one is regarded by others; standing.
    2. A person’s high standing among others; honor or esteem.
    3. Widely recognized prominence, distinction, or importance: a position of prestige in diplomatic circles.

  4. @TheAndrewforty says:

    Lolz for days…Brilliant!
    Loving Meg’s and Anna’s work – like all true corporate professionals, bullshit is substituted for grey matter.

  5. Rich...! says:


    I’d just like to go on record and state that we contacted Megs and asked for her help – she really was the saving grace in this and was trying her best to get things sorted. I worry by sentiment I see online that she looks like one of the bad guys, this certainly was not the case.

    Really really, megan is my hero and went a long way towards stopping this getting ugly earlier.

  6. Sindy says:

    Oh my, what a mess!

    Looks like an internal communications issue at MTN.

    PR / Marketing thought you’d be awesome to have on Prestige, regardless of your spend (your HUGE following n all), but Senior Manager: Loyalty either disagreed or was never made aware of your free pass onto Prestige in the first place, which would override the Ts & Cs.

    Either way, bad form, MTN.

  7. Nathan says:

    wow, you handled it very nicely. Totally dig the preso. Not a cool situation though.

  8. Donovan says:

    Sucks dude! It amazes me how so-called service providers keep finding new and creative ways of f@*king up! The problem is they’re all the same, the red dudes have just this week messed me around and the colourful dots dudes drive my wife insane! You’re the one giving the loyalty but what do you get in return?

  9. Dino van der Merwe says:

    So I’m curious Richard, has anything positive resulted from the “escalation” yet? Or do Corporates not work on weekends to make their customers happy…

  10. Gerry Skerritt says:

    I had a look at the Prestige website – wow what a wonderful offer! Spend R4000 a month and get amazing benefits like a free phone and a seat next to the sandwiches with the curled up corners at SA airports. You can get an unlimited contract for less than half that with a phone and will have saved R24k after a year for any phone of your choice and better lounge access (which you probably have already!)

  11. Ekaterina says:

    由于我完全不同观测,一些专业词汇就看的似懂非懂的。所以想请教一下下面这句话的正确的翻译:”Mass loss from cool giants and sianrgupets is evidenced by P Cygni profiles in optical spectra, by the 10 μm silicate feature in IR spectra, and by maser line emission from OH and other molecules in radio-frequency spectra.“

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    for those of us just getting begun, is there any chance of getting some of the letters mailed in the past?

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    I had a look at the Prestige website – wow what a wonderful offer! Spend R4000 a month and get amazing benefits like a free phone and a seat next to the sandwiches with the curled up corners at SA airports. You can get an unlimited contract for less than half that with a phone and will have saved R24k after a year for any phone of your choice and better lounge access (which you probably have already!)

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  36. Tare Mutenda says:

    This type of behaviour is why they are still hemorrhaging clients in 2016. Three years after this was published NOTHING HAS CHANGED at MTN.

    Onto the point at hand however brands shouldnt promise to do anything they cant do. Lesson learned.

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