Reporting a burst water pipe on a street in Cape Town and Durban will depend on how fast you talk – because you are unlikely to wait long after phoning those cities' respective call centres.
But in Johannesburg, be prepared to wait for a long, long time – even after call centre operations were normalised following a strike in November.
On 12 December, Business Insider South Africa tested the call centres of South Africa's three biggest cities to see how long it took to reach a human call centre agent if we wanted to report a burst water main.
We phoned each city's call centre three times during the day, in the early morning, at midday, and in the late afternoon. In each case we waited for the voice prompts to finish reading out the option we needed, which turned out to be important for two of the cities.
This is how long it took us, on average over the course of the day, to reach a city employee to whom we could report a burst water pipe.
All three our calls to the Cape Town call centre (0860 103 089) were answered at 31 seconds, because that is how long it takes to select a language (option 1 for English, in our case), the water and electricity unit (option 0) and to then specify water(option 1).
If you want to choose a different language, you may need to add a second or two, in order to get to that option. But in our experience, a human appeared almost magically at the other end of the phone the instant you press the last button.
At the eThekwini engineering call centre serving Durban (080 13 13 013) we faced a wait in the late afternoon. In the early morning it took 32 seconds to navigate the issue-selection menu and reach a human, and at mid day it took 25 seconds – but in the late afternoon we had to wait 3 minutes and 16 seconds.
That late-afternoon crush pushed the average of our three call waiting times to just under a minute and a half.
Although the waiting times for the Johannesburg call centre varied wildly during the day, it was still in a league all of its own. In the early morning it took us just over 29 minutes to reach a human. At mid day that holding time shrank to slightly over 12 minutes, but by late afternoon it was up to 16 minutes and 12 seconds again.
On average, between our three calls, it took slightly over 19 minutes to reach a human being.
That is around 14 times longer than the holding time for eThekwini – and 37 times longer than the Cape Town average.
(Johannesburg city workers went on strike in November, and the city's call centre operations were severely affected. However, the city assures us that the strike is over, and that call centre operations have been normalised.)
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