BTC announced that come July 1, it will transform Directory Assistance, introducing new features available on 916 calls, a long-standing, underused service that one executive said remained “a sleeper in the array of customer products” for decades.
“We are excited about the many changes coming to BTC as part of our initiative to improve and keep improving customer service,” said Marlon Johnson, VP, Brand and Communications. “We know that for years BTC was engineering driven and now we are seeing the company re-invent itself as customer-driven. We are seeing one location after another emerge as transformed interactive retail space. Changes to 916 are a part of the new picture.” Among the new features will be automatic call connect, a service that attracts a premium charge in most jurisdictions, according to the team who prepared and guided the directory assistance task. In The Bahamas, it will be provided without charge.
However, along with other new features including a wider array of information available, will come a nominal charge of 35 cents per directory call after the monthly allotment of three free calls per cell phone and three free calls per landline on BTC’s network have been exhausted. With up to six free calls per month, the charge is expected to have little impact.
“Our research shows us that the average customer makes 1.2 calls to Directory Assistance per month so we really do not believe the charge will have a negative impact,” said Johnson. “While it is important for us to notify the public about the upcoming charges, the reality is that with up to six free directory assistance calls per month for customers with BTC wireless and fixed line service — three per number — and with the average use well below that, there is likely to be little if any impact on the costs associated with telecom service provided by BTC.”
What might drive future directory assistance usage up, he noted, will be the ability to be automatically connected. “In most places, there is a premium charge associated with this feature, but BTC will provide this service free of charge,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the fee of 35 cents is also well below most markets. “In comparable markets, the average charge is 58.5 cents,” he said, citing Cayman at 59 cents per directory assistance call, Barbados at 50 cents, Turks & Caicos at $1. Only Anguilla and Trinidad and Tobago came in slightly lower. Vodafone in the U.K. Charges a fee of $1.30. Those findings were submitted to URCA, the regulatory agency, when approval for the charge was being sought following the opening up of the telecom environment to competition that required BTC to supply direct assistance to competitors.
“We needed to cover the cost of a service that we are, in effect, now wholesaling to others and we wanted to do so with as little impact on our customers as possible while providing them with an improved and upgraded directory assistance information program and added features not previously available,” said Johnson. Calls to Time of Day, Weather and other information sources will remain complimentary and the company said there would never be a charge for an emergency call to 911 or 919. The fee takes effect July 1.
Diane Phillips & Associates