Some HawTel customers hit e-mail glitches in changeover
Many had trouble configuring software with a new system
Hawaiian Telcom Communications Inc. reported yesterday a successful transition to a new back-office operation system, but the change left thousands of customers baffled about how to check their e-mail. Some are questioning the company's preparations.
The transition last weekend moved the local telecom company's support operations from a system run by Verizon Communications Inc. to Hawaiian Telcom's new system, which the company spent $100 million to develop so it could operate independently of Verizon, its former parent.
The new system includes billing, human resources, customer service and other functions.
Hawaiian Telcom said yesterday that the network transition, which took place starting Friday night and ending Saturday, went smoothly. Basic phone service, long distance, E911, directory assistance and Internet access all switched over without a hitch, and new customer-service call centers went operational. New network monitoring capabilities also were working, the company said.
But not everyone was happy.
Agnes Niyekawa, a retired University of Hawaii professor and Hawaiian Telcom Internet customer, said yesterday that she had been unable to figure out how to use her Microsoft Outlook e-mail program with the new Hawaiian Telcom system. What's more, she said, she could not get anyone on the line when she called the company for help on Saturday. Niyekawa tried again yesterday but still could not reach a customer service representative, she said.
Before the transition, Hawaiian Telcom had said it was crafting contingency plans to deal with scores of potential glitches related to the change, and the company mounted an extensive public information campaign to let consumers know about potential problems, including longer wait times for people needing technical help.
But Niyekawa was not impressed.
"How could a big company have been so unprepared?" she said.
Ann Nishida, a Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman, said the company did successfully migrate accounts from Verizon.net to Hawaiiantel.net, but people nonetheless were having trouble configuring e-mail programs such as Microsoft Outlook to work with the new system.
She said the Hawaiian Telcom had gotten calls from about 5 percent of its customers, who might have been struggling with the change.
Nishida would not say precisely how many customers were affected, but the number appears to be several thousand, at least. As of Dec. 1, Hawaiian Telcom reported it had 79,000 DSL customers, so 5 percent of that would place the number at just under 4,000.
That number does not include the company's dial-up Internet customers.
Customers having trouble with their e-mail software still could send or receive mail using the Hawaiiantel.net site, Nishida said. Plus the issues did not affect Web-based e-mail systems such as Microsoft's Hotmail or Google's Gmail.
Christie Adams, a Hawaiian Telcom Internet subscriber, said she had been able to check her e-mail by going to the Hawaiiantel.net site. But she said she found that system less convenient to use than Outlook, which she said she's been using for seven years.
Meanwhile, customers have faced long waits before they can talk to one of the 40 to 60 representatives staffing the company's new technical support center. Customers calling the new support center on Oahu had to wait as long as 30 minutes on Saturday, the company said, although the wait time had dropped to about three to four minutes by midday Sunday. But yesterday morning Adams said she waited 20 minutes and still couldn't get anyone on the phone.
Nishida said that callers were having to wait because technical support staff were taking the time to walk customers through the process of configuring their e-mail programs to work with the new system. Directions are also posted on the company's Web site.
Hawaiian Telcom also reported several service outages last week that it attributed to last week's record rain. Because of high volume, the company said repairs would generally take three to four days versus the typical 24 hours.
The company will not perform most new installations and service until next week.
"We apologize for any inconvenience our customers may have experienced and ask for their continued patience as in working through the changes that are necessary to truly bring Hawaiian Telcom home to the islands," Nishida said.