US West Communications Inc. on Friday took another step toward resolving a backlog of telephone service problems by announcing plans to hire an additional 1,300 workers for residential operations.
The company also will shuffle workers and make other changes to ensure more representatives are available during the peak hours, said US West Communications spokesman Dave Banks.
The changes won’t affect US West’s long-range re-engineering program to cut about 9,000 jobs and upgrade equipment in an effort to become more efficient, he said.
“The idea of these changes is to reduce the access problem that we have so that customers are better able to reach us during the peak and non-peak times, not only during the week but during the year,” Banks said.
He said the steps announced Friday will have no affect on company plans to scale back operations in Spokane.
The moves come several months after the telecommunications giant was lambasted by thousands of consumers and utility regulators because of a horrific backlog of new service and repair orders.
Some customers in the company’s 14-state region had waited months, and even years, for new service. Others complained about hearing persistent busy signals when they telephoned US West business offices.
US West blamed the problems on unprecedented growth across the region, which they failed to anticipate.
In response to the complaints, US West mandated overtime, re-emphasized customer service and increased its construction budget by $41 million.
By the end of the year, US West reduced the number of “held” orders - people who had waited longer than 30 days for new service - to 1,797 from 5,100 in October.
In January, the company said it met the standard of answering 80 percent of the calls made to its business offices within 20 seconds.
“We’ve seen dramatic improvement in our customer-service measures during the past three to four months,” said Jane Evans, general manager of US West Communications’ home and personal services division.
“In fact, fourth quarter 1994 saw the most dramatic improvement in our history in terms of our customers’ ability to reach our business offices and in our level of held orders.”
In Friday’s announcement, US West said it plans to fill 700 staff openings and add 615 new employees in residential operations. The new workers would be stationed across the region, Banks said.
Some of the new jobs would be temporary as the company proceeds with its $880 million re-engineering program, he said.
In addition, the company will eliminate Saturday customer service operations to shift 700-800 employees to Monday-toFriday operations, a time frame during which 94 percent of the service requests are placed.
US West also will send billing inquiry calls to its credit management centers and contract with an outside firm to take disconnect service requests.
The company officials are developing a plan to work with real estate agents, building management firms and others on offering new service without contacting the business office.