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Phone company change impacts workers; no customers
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The area’s phone company is in the final stages of transition from Coastal Communications to new ownership under CenturyTel, Inc.
CenturyTel is one of the nation’s largest communications service providers, with operations in 25 states. It bought Coastal in April 2007 as part of an $830 million purchase of Madison River Communications Corp., Coastal’s former parent company.
Coastal added the phrase “A CenturyTel Company” to its name following the acquisition. On July 1, it began phasing out Coastal, and is now known as CenturyTel.
Andy Jennings, spokesperson for CenturyTel, says the transition should be complete within 45 days.
According to Durand Standard, general manager of CenturyTel’s Georgia market, about 30 positions were eliminated in the transition and two more are set to be phased out over the next two months.
“Due to the consolidation of functions, there were some impacted positions,” he said. “We tried to minimize the impact as much as possible through our retirement and attrition plans.”
CenturyTel notified the affected employees nine months in advance, an extended timeframe, which Standard said illustrates the company’s corporate character.
“With the greatest sincerity and effort, CenturyTel gave them as much advance notice as possible,” he said.
For customers, the switch to CenturyTel will bring few noticeable changes.
“The transition has been very smooth so far, thanks to the shared values and philosophies of the two companies,” Jennings said.
Standard stressed the importance of keeping customers informed.
“We tried to think of every question a customer might have concerning the transition,” he said. “We did a tremendous amount of communication through email, print ads and inserts.”
The main area in which customers can expect change is paying bills. CenturyTel uses a different online payment system than Coastal. On paper bills, the location and color of items have change.
“We let customers know ahead of time that it would look different, and we also inserted a guide into the new bills explaining where everything is,” Jennings said.
There are no rate changes planned, and customers who already subscribe to a bundled packaged will not see rates affected
“They’ll be grandfathered in,” Standard said. “There will not be any rate changes as a direct result of the acquisition.”
Customer service will remain relatively unchanged. CenturyTel is maintaining Coastal’s five area customer service centers in Hinesville, Richmond Hill, and on Fort Stewart. One difference is that calls to CenturyTel’s customer service line will be handled by representatives at their corporate office in Shreveport, La., or from a call center in Wisconsin.
Standard said, “The service level is still there. We never want to stop working with the customer one-on-one.”
Over the next several months, CenturyTel will begin offering new products and services. One that has already been introduced, the business-oriented Metro Ethernet package, has been well received.
“Due to the advanced technology that CenturyTel brings, we will be able to begin introducing more new products,” Standard said.
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