COSTA MESA -- Fuzzy reception? Questions on bills? Lost a favorite
channel? Can't get through to an AT&T; Broadband customer service
City Hall. This evening. Be there.
AT&T; Broadband representatives will address customers' concerns during
an unprecedented community forum Thursday in council chambers, hoping
their efforts will convey a continued commitment to improving customer
service in the city.
"We expect to provide better service for our customers," said Del
Heintz, director of local government affairs for AT&T; Broadband -- the
cable company that offers exclusive service to Costa Mesa residents.
More than 15 cable managers will attend the meeting to make
on-the-spot adjustments to billing statements and service plans while
also answering questions. Technicians will be fully equipped -- their
service vans in the parking lot -- to follow a customer home and repair
or install as needed that night.
"Our entire team will consist of managers, so they can take action
that night without having to clear anything with a supervisor," Heintz
Thursday's meeting -- scheduled five days before the cable giant comes
before the City Council -- is the most recent attempt by both city and
cable officials to solve many of the ongoing problems experienced by
Costa Mesa customers.
Earlier this year, residents reported problems communicating with AT&T;
Broadband customer service agents, saying hold times were excessive --
more than an hour -- if they got through at all. Many residents said they
got a busy signal when they dialed the toll-free number.
Jerry Verwolf, telecommunications manager for the city, said customer
complaints have increased dramatically in the past six years. In 1996,
four people complained to the city about poor service from AT&T;
Broadband. By 2001, the number climbed to 103 and officials have taken 43
complaints this year, he said.
Verwolf said Thursday's meeting is a joint collaboration between the
city and AT&T; Broadband officials, both of which have a vested interest
in resolving the service issues.
AT&T; Broadband has a 15-year contract with the city, which authorizes
the construction, operation and maintenance of a cable system throughout
the city. Contrary to popular belief, the contract is not exclusive.
Although other cable companies are free to compete for service in
Costa Mesa, they are discouraged by the fact that AT&T; Broadband already
has a strong customer base, officials said. It is not cost-effective to
get the contract from the city and install the necessary equipment with
no guarantee of customers.
Verwolf said it pleased him that the cable company was taking an extra
effort to resolve customer problems but said this type of meeting should
supplement good service, not serve as the only way residents can get
action from their cable provider. The meeting is a good first step but
more must be done, he said.
"We will continue to monitor the customer service they are providing,"
* Lolita Harper covers Costa Mesa. She may be reached at (949)
574-4275 or by e-mail at o7 firstname.lastname@example.org .
WHAT: AT&T; Broadband customer service seminar
WHEN: 3 to 7 p.m. today
WHERE: City Hall, 77 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
INFORMATION: (888) 255-5789