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An ‘F’ for Cell C

Oscar Foulkes December 28, 2010 My Little Black Book 20 comments

4 February: Following a comment (published below) by Cell C’s CEO, we have spoken on the phone. Once he’d got the apologies out of the way, he first wanted to know if there was any assistance I needed (I didn’t, the Speedstick is working just fine), and then went on to ask if I could suggest ways in which they could improve the customer experience. I have absolutely no doubt that Lars Reichelt is sincere about the changes he wants to implement at Cell C.

I’m leaving this post live so that others who have the same problem with the outgoing server settings are able to find them. I wish Lars and his team well as they continue their turnaround at Cell C (and Trevor Noah will be watching).

South Africa’s third cellphone operator – Cell C – has had an uphill battle. Not only has the company struggled to build its market share, but it has been dogged by a reputation for appalling customer service. Earlier this year they launched a huge advertising campaign based around the comedian Trevor Noah. Parts of the campaign were presented as real, but in fact turned out to be fabrications, which led to a lot of chatter on the net.

I think I’m willing to let the hoax component slide. The gist of what they were trying to communicate is that Cell C has a brand-new and upgraded approach to customer service. I think they did pretty well at getting the message across.

I became a Cell C customer recently, when I was lured by an insanely good special offer for their mobile data service, Speedstick. The purchase process (at Game) was straightforward. However, when I encountered problems getting it to work on my Mac, I found the need to phone their call centre.

First problem: I didn’t know my mobile number, which disqualified me from getting assistance via the call centre. So, I logged an online request for assistance. Shortly thereafter I received a confirmation email, telling me that I would be contacted within 48 hours. That turned into a week. Not a good start from a customer service perspective.

I did manage to get it working, and have found the download speed to be much faster than the conventional ADSL service I’ve used for years.

There remained the issue of obtaining settings for the outgoing (SMTP) mail server, basic information that I shouldn’t need to hunt for. Thanks to my smtp2go subscription it’s not a huge issue, but not all my email addresses are registered with them. So, I logged another online support request, received the 48 hour promise, and then waited a week for someone to get back to me. I was promised a text message, which never arrived, but fortunately I remembered the name of the server that was given to me during the phone call. Yet another poor service experience from Cell C. For the record, the outgoing mail server for Cell C’s Speedstick is
Save on 1300+ Magazines at BlueDolphin!

I don’t have any experience of Cell C’s customer service before their Trevor Noah campaign, and – hoax allegations aside – I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. On the simplest measure (i.e. keeping their promise of a response within 48 hours) they have failed miserably.

They have also broken one of marketing’s primary rules. If you build customers’ expectations of a certain level of performance, or change, or whatever, you’d better move heaven and earth to ensure that you deliver on your promises.

Here’s why it’s important to know the SMTP server.


Nicki Tipping - December 28, 2010

Oscar – I have just had a similar bad experience with Cell C over my Speed Stick – it kept dropping the connection. The customer service was atrocious! And as you say, it was made worse by my higher expectations which they raised by their advertising! Hopefully resolved now they’ve given me a new Speed Stick – but that took 3 weeks and countless telephone calls and emails to get. Grrrr!

Oscar Foulkes - December 28, 2010

I bet no-one senior in the organisation took the trouble to contact you personally with an apology for their shocking service. Adding a month to your contract would have been a small, but probably highly appreciated gesture, given that you haven’t had the full use of your Speedstick in the first three weeks.

I maintain that determining service levels is more relevant when things go wrong. It’s all about the service recovery.

Lars P Reichelt - February 4, 2011


Only saw your blog post now. You are right, we did have some difficulties due to the unprecedented demand and we are working on improving all the aspects you are mentioning. My apologies. Please e-mail me for further discussion.


Lars P. Reichelt

Kevin - March 1, 2011

Please help,

I have the new speed stick that everyone is talking about but since moving over from Vodafone to Cell C I can’t send out any e-mails.
The SMTP that i was given from Cell C is but after two hours in their shop and much frustration I still don’t have outgoing mail.


Oscar Foulkes - March 1, 2011

Kevin, I know from personal experience that Lars Reichelt, Cell C’s CEO, is serious about customer service. I’m just not sure that either the customer service structure (or the people in it) support his aspirations. It has to make one wonder when Cell C customers come here for assistance!

I’m not sure I can help you more than they have already attempted to, but have you had a look at the port being used (25 is one of the defaults) for the smtp server? I’m not an expert on these things, but attempting to use a SSL logon may also have an impact.

If all else fails, try smtp2go. It costs a little, but you never need to worry about smtp again.

Charmaine Aboud - March 1, 2011

I came across this blog by accident as I was looking for the contact details of the CEO – ATROCIOUS is the word! I have been trying to cancel and then finally downgrade my contract since the 20 December 2010 – I am paying Cell C R1500.00 a month for a contract that i have used only once since September 2009. Despite numerous emails and requests for this to be done I am still being debited R1500.00 every month. I am frustrated and horrified at the total lack of service from a company that has spent millions on promising its clients only the best!!! Please does someone have the contact details of the Cell C head office I am desperate!!!

Oscar Foulkes - March 1, 2011

Let’s just call this site the unofficial customer service representative for Cell C!

One of the lessons we can all learn from the inaccessibility of Cell C’s customer service is that their first job is to be on hand to hear what customers are wanting to tell them (i.e. “this is my problem”). When that opportunity doesn’t exist, the frustration grows, and a lot more people get to hear of the problem.

Christine - March 2, 2011

Thanks so much for your help! Been struggling for hours to get my mail sent after buying the Cell C Speedstick option. You saved me the frustrating option of phoning the help line. Way to go bro.

Stuart K - June 1, 2011

I have a Cell C MF190 Speed Stick, and I had no problems with speed until over a week ago, my download speeds have dropped to anywhere from 1Kbps up to 55Kbps and this is like dial up. I have tried to email Cell C to advise and trying to phone is like, well you all know.
Could anyone out there possibly help me with a solution, also I have noticed that even when in idle mode and I am not downloading anything it keeps running and racking up Megs….

Christine - June 17, 2011

Oscar, you are a lifesaver. You were the culmination to a 2 hour search for outgoing server settings (I didn’t even bother with the customer service line). Hurrah! It works! May angels wing you to your party destination this evening.

Quirky - July 12, 2011

Hi Oscar
i found your site, because, is not working at present, so searched for an alternative outgoing server setting. To the point:
My speedstick always drops signal:
I bought my stick in January: I have in the first three months:
– been to two cellc Red bull shops
– the headoffice My St. Davids
– logged a call
– written two complaints on the consumer website
– SMSED the call me back response line

I have still not had ONE response from CELLC – so CELLC – watch youtube shortly when I VIDEO RECORD a CELLC speedstick being dismantled by heavy machinery – I have also heard from a (reliable) source that there is gremlin in the code of the speedstick that even Huwai are battling to sort….so whats the deal CELL C- Am I just the unlucky guy who falls through the cracks….

Julie - July 12, 2011

Bought the black stick LOVE IT… tried to set it up could not get ANYONE AT CELL C to answer the phone or return a call… to this day 8 months later have never received any communications as requested by me through any medium!! very poor…. as far as the product… amazing… hubby is due for upgrade soon and is leaving VODACOM to get a black stick like mine… but today my mails stopped sending, have had no problems since initial setup (which I finally ended up getting MWEB to do for me since CELL C werent helping) … all has been well for months now all settings are as per all your blogs but still not sending…very frustrating…can anyone help??

Oscar Foulkes - July 13, 2011

Julie & Quirky,

If you sign up with smtp2go you’ll never need to worry about outgoing mail server settings again. It costs less than $24 per year, which may be the best online purchase I’ve ever made.Click here to sign up now.

Giovanni - July 17, 2011

i use my phone as an modem and the browsing speed is great, mail.cmobile just stop working, i’ve been unable to ping it and unable to get throught to the helpdesk.
tried the that was posted and it works.
like everyone else very irritated with the lack of info on their website..

Barry - August 8, 2011

I had a 7.2Mbps speed stick and now have a 21.6Mbps speed stick. Living in Paarl, 150 years ago the ox wagons moved through this place faster than Cell C’s internet connection. Even slower than this is the “support” you get from Cell C on Twitter. Those guys are either uneducated volunteers who don’t know the answer or employees gone AWOL. I have not received a response from them for a message I left on 27 July, 12 days ago.
Beginning of Aug 2011 Cell C introduced 3G to Paarl but you don’t get anywhere near speeds of 21.6Mbps. The “fastest” I have ever received … less than 2Mbps – TWO!!
Abysmal support and service would be an understatement. 🙁

Amith - October 14, 2011

Hi Guys
does anyone know the email address for the current CEO, Simon Duffy or the MD of Cell C?


Mornay - January 27, 2012

HI Guys

I wish Cell C CEO would look at this site.
I too have been having problems. When i got my Data package i was really impressed. Then it went down hill from there. I have a net pad and have the ability to put the sim in the netpad. It will connect but show no connection, no internet service, no network availible.

I to have tried calling sent e mails contacted Trevor on tell Trevor. It’s all been a joke.

I can use my vodacom sim and it works perfectly. So no one can tell me it’s my netpad or the build in modem.

If i can get the CEO e mail address i would love it. If I find out what it is I will post it.

Oscar Foulkes - February 20, 2012

Cell C data bundles are valid for just 30 days. Am I alone in finding this irritating?

Apart from anything else, surely this falls foul of the Consumer Protection Act, which dictates that vouchers or pre-payments cannot expire.

Biancha - May 29, 2012

I have a BIG problem concerning my outlook and my Cell C speed stick, I am unable to send but i have no problem receiving emails, i have tried so many things and nothing seems to work, when i send from my telkom line at home i have no problems what so ever, so which settings should i change? please i need help as soon as possible, its driving me dilly

Robert - July 2, 2012

I bleed for y’all! I went through the same experiences with Vodacom, MTN and 8.ta before I wised up and went wireless @ R190/GB. Look around and in most places you’ll find a wireless server – specially in the countryside ‘cos there the cell phone service is really lousy. Wireless buy-in is around R1000 – R2000 depending on your aerial height and selected options. Thereafter just plain sailing with no issues!

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