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GTE CALIFORNIA UNVEILS 'WINNING EDGE' COMPETITIVE, CUSTOMER-DRIVEN BUSINESS PLAN

 THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., Feb. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Larry Sparrow, GTE Telephone Operations - West Area president today unveiled a massive 1993 "Winning Edge" business plan, including a service guarantee program for the company's 3 million customers, a new billing system, accelerated deployment of fiber-optic systems and nearly a half- billion-dollar annual investment in California's telecommunications infrastructure.
 In a live telecast to employees statewide, Sparrow said the aggressive plan is designed to improve the company's responsiveness to customer needs and competition during 1993 and beyond.
 Sparrow said GTE will spend nearly $461 million this year to upgrade its California infrastructure. That includes $37 million for continued deployment of fiber-optic technology in prime GTE markets in Long Beach, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Gabriel and the Inland Empire (Pomona and Ontario).
 He said GTE California, the first local phone company in the nation to carry customer calls on fiber optics, already has three fiber-optic rings installed in West Los Angeles, Ontario and Long Beach, as well as 60,000 miles of fiber cable throughout California.
 Broadband Network/Cable TV Entry
 "Gov. Wilson in his state of the state address, called for a roll-out of more fiber optic systems and the construction of a broadband network for California," Sparrow said. Sparrow said that GTE has been deploying fiber for years and providing state-of-the-art fiber solutions for business customers.
 "Now GTE is very interested in extending advanced fiber services to the residential market, but first we must overcome some regulatory restraints," he said. "We think building broadband fiber networks will open the gate for bringing unlimited new services to customers. These video services include entertainment, medical, educational, home shopping and new business applications.
 "This will create new jobs both in California and nationally, jump-starting the economy and building for the future."
 Competitive Challenges/"Winning Edge"
 Sparrow said GTE's aggressive plan is being driven by customer demand, burgeoning technologies and increasing competition.
 "Our goal is to be the telecommunications company of choice," he said. "Today, about 30 percent of our business is competitive; by 1996, 70 percent of our revenues will be subject to competition.
 "As soon as this summer, we could be competing with the long- distance companies for carrying toll calls just beyond our customers' local calling area. Because local rates are still heavily subsidized by toll revenue, our toll rates are priced well above those of the long-distance companies.
 "To compete, we're now seeking Public Utilities Commission approval to rebalance our rates and price all our services closer to cost.
 "We're confident, that given pricing flexibility and a level playing field, our know-how and technology will give us the winning edge' to anticipate and meet customer needs," he said. "This will set GTE apart from the competition as a world-class company."
 Newbury Park Fiber-to-the-Curb Pilot
 One of GTE's notable uses of technology in 1993 will be a fiber- to-the-curb trial in Newbury Park. This project, called the Shapell Development, will contain business parks, schools, 800 single-unit dwellings and 400 townhouses and condominiums. The pilot starts in June and will provide GTE and its customers with real-life fiber-to- the-curb operational experience.
 "California is one of GTE's best markets," Sparrow said. "To give our state the best telecommunications possible, GTE spent more than $4 billion in the 1980s to modernize our network and switching facilities.
 "Today, our switching centers are 90 percent digital and 100 percent electronic -- that is unmatched by any other major local phone company in our state. In 1993, we will continue to aggressively deploy fiber-optic and digital technology in key GTE markets to provide new services and meet competitive challenges."
 Service Guarantee Program
 Sparrow said GTE California plans to "set a new standard for telephone service in California" by rolling out a customer Service Guarantee Program in the second half of 1993.
 "We're going to put our money where our mouth is," Sparrow said. "If we miss a customer's service installation or repair commitment time by even a few minutes, we will give that customer a credit on their telephone service."
 In such cases, by calling their GTE Business Office, residential customers would get a $25 credit on their next month's bill, and business customers would receive a $100 credit. The guarantee credits will be funded so that ratepayers will not bear the costs of the program.
 The guarantee will apply to GTE California local services and equipment under GTE rental, warranty or maintenance contracts. GTE California piloted the program in 1992 in the Palm Springs area and will seek PUC approval to expand it companywide by year-end 1993.
 Express Dialtone
 Another service program, designed for customer convenience and company cost-cutting is Express Dialtone. Through this program, GTE will leave restricted dial tone on vacated, single-line residential and business lines. This dial tone will enable customers to call only to GTE's service offices.
 This will enable customers to easily call GTE from their new residences or businesses to order service or to check previously ordered service. GTE will be able to reconnect these lines for unrestricted local phone service remotely without visiting the customer's home or business.
 Service can be established within a couple of hours after the customer's call, or at a future time selected by the customer. This will be a convenience to customers and enable GTE to avoid making unnecessary field visits. The program will be piloted in March 15 in San Jacinto, Calif. (near Hemet) and introduced later in March in Marina del Rey and Maplegrove (San Gabriel Valley).
 Customer Care Centers/GTE Help Desk
 Other customer service-driven programs will include Customer Care Centers and the GTE Help Desk.
 "The GTE Help Desk, opening this month in Long Beach, will provide GTE customers nationwide with on-line assistance in using advanced network services such as GTE Centranet(SM) and enhanced custom calling," Sparrow said.
 He said Customer Care Centers in Mission Hills (San Fernando Valley) and Pomona will open in April. "These centers will enhance GTE's ability to resolve customer repair service needs much more rapidly," Sparrow said.
 New Billing System
 Sparrow said a new billing system also will benefit customers.
 "In the last decade, local phone companies have been required to list more and more information on customers' phone bills," he said.
 "By fourth quarter of this year, we will have a new multimillion- dollar billing system that will make our customer bills much easier to read and more understandable," Sparrow said.
 The new bill will be multicolored; have clear, informative subheads; and highlighted helpful information and itemization of monthly charges. Most significantly, customers will be able to make automatic, electronic bill payments through their bank.
 Before GTE implements the new bill for all its customers, it will meet with key business customers through focus groups to discuss the bill, as well as conduct a customer education program.
 Consolidation/Down-Sizing
 Sparrow said GTE, in California, and nationally, will continue to down-size its workforce, while fine-tuning its systems and business processes. "Down-Sizing is nothing new to GTE California," he said.
 "We have reduced about 1,000 jobs a year, for the past 12 years. Due to the benefits of new technology, and the challenges of new competition, this down-sizing and necessary cost reductions will continue.
 "As we've done in the past, we will try to reduce our workforce through attrition and voluntary separation programs. Involuntary reductions would be used only as a last resort."
 Sparrow said, "A number of GTE work functions are being consolidated here in California, as well as in other sites throughout the nation. California will be the national GTE center for some work functions, while some functions formerly performed in California will be done elsewhere.
 "Overall, there will be an ebb and flow of jobs into and out of California. As we've done in the past, GTE's continuing role as an employer will be to create meaningful, blue-chip jobs through technology.
 "Our extensive business plan outlined today, underscores our continuing commitment to California."
 Sparrow said more details of GTE's competitive business plan will be provided to employees by department heads in March and April. "We will inform our employees first, and then the communities we serve."
 GTE California serves 3 million customers in 330 communities and has 13,781 employees. It is part of GTE Corp., of Stamford, Conn., which employs more than 22,000 persons in California.
 -0- 2/18/93
 /CONTACT: Larry Cox of GTE California 24-Hour News Bureau, 800-227-5556/


CO: GTE California ST: California IN: TLS SU:

KJ-EH -- LA033 -- 7961 02/18/93 14:03 EST
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