Hawaiian Telcom is committed to fulfilling high expectations
SINCE Hawaiian Telcom became independent in May 2005, a lot of things have gone right, though there have been significant challenges along the way. We now are working through our most publicly visible problems, and the people of Hawaiian Telcom are committed to getting our current customer service challenges right.
As noted in a June 26 Star-Bulletin editorial, we have had several challenges in a row since we transitioned to our new business support systems on March 31. For many customers, it has been frustrating as we have worked through and resolved each problem. I apologize to any customer who has been inconvenienced in any way. Fortunately, the worst of these service problems are now behind us, I believe, though there is still much work to be done.
The most far-reaching effect from our transition to independence has been the disruption in our billing cycle. Transferring the account information for roughly 640,000 access lines was a massive process that took more than two weeks to complete. Further delays came when we stopped the billing process, first to correct a software error that affected about 12,000 long-distance subscribers and then a human error that affected about 9,000 people with automatic bill payments.
Because of these delays and our efforts to get back on schedule, the payment from a customer and the next bill to that customer often crossed in the mail. This meant that a previous balance often was carried over. I assure you that we are keeping track and will ensure that all customers receive the proper credit. The good news is that we expect the billing cycle to be back to normal this month.
Another frustration has been the time our customers spend on hold when calling our contact centers. Since the transition, we've had waves of unusually high call volumes that started with the record rains of March and which now mostly concern the delayed bills. Billing is the last huge wave of calls that we expect as part of this transition.
The good news about hold times is that the situation is improving. At our residential contact center, for example, the average time on hold peaked in mid-May but had dropped 75 percent at the end of last week. Hold times still will vary, but we have seen a major improvement and expect hold times to continue getting back to normal as the dust from this transition settles.
While these challenges have been the most visible, they certainly are not the only tasks we've had to address while reversing nearly 20 years of downsizing and offshoring.
Among the things gone right, the company's employees worked with great dedication to ensure a successful transition of network services. This handoff from our predecessor on March 31 was vitally important because local dialtone, long distance, emergency services and other critical items had to continue without interruption, and they did.
Looking even farther back, we deployed a new Internet backbone network in Hawaii last fall. Replacing these congested network facilities was made more challenging than usual because we had not yet assumed full control of our network from our predecessor. But we did successfully complete this major migration, and we continue to upgrade key Internet facilities throughout the islands with a major increase in broadband speeds now in the works.
We also built a new network monitoring center in Honolulu, replacing several different monitoring sites on the mainland. This new center has created brand new capabilities for managing network services right here at home. It's a state-of-the-art facility and the only one of its kind in Hawaii.
The company established a new small business sales force, which offers telecommunications expertise to this underserved segment of our economy and to the neighbor islands.
We've refurbished entire floors of our headquarters building, floors that were previously being stripped down to bare concrete because jobs had been transferred offshore. Now, this space has been transformed into centers of local activity and advanced technology. Just this week, we moved about 80 people from temporary quarters into remodeled space in our Bishop Street headquarters.
We've launched new products and services along with new advertising campaigns to support them. It's all created here now, and we're excited about adding video to our lineup.
Also, we have transferred more than 100 different work activities from the mainland, established a full-service corporate structure and created about 200 jobs. This is in addition to new wireless, long distance and Internet service provider operations -- all created in Hawaii in the past year.
And as many of you have experienced, Hawaiian Telcom has reinvigorated our corporate philanthropy program with key sponsorships for local institutions such as the Great Aloha Run, the Filipino Fiesta and Parade, and the Hawaii Union Builders Goodwill Senior Bowl. Last December, we made a special Community Appreciation Grant of more than $700,000 divided among 40 deserving local agencies.
The transformation of this company into a rejuvenated local citizen has been a project of unprecedented scope and scale. But this effort already is delivering vital support to the state's economy even as we help the people of the islands connect to each other and to the world.
However, our transformation will not be complete until we deliver superior customer service to all of our customers all of the time. My pledge to you is that we will not rest until we meet that commitment by delivering the high-quality service experience that you expect and deserve.
Mike Ruley is chief executive officer of Hawaiian Telcom.