Recent severe weather has caused a significant increase in faults on Chorus landlines, prompting both Chorus and Spark to issue statements apologising to customers for the inconvenience.
Spark said fault-related calls reached over 6000 per day in the last week of June, 30 percent higher than a few weeks earlier.
“Only weeks into the winter season, the number of faults that have required a visit by a Chorus technician has almost reached the volume for the entire 2015/2016 summer,” Spark said. It said the spike in faults had increased the pressure on its call centres, “hampering initiatives already underway to reduce customer wait times.”
General manager of Spark Care, Bridgette Dalzell, said Chorus had warned it and other service providers that customers might have to wait for up to two weeks to get faults fixed over the winter.
Chorus spread the blame beyond the weather saying: “Chorus is experiencing the usual spike in the number of weather-related winter faults, coupled with an unusually high number of incidents of damage to our copper network caused by third parties.”
Chorus said it had received notification of 38,000 faults in June, 16 percent above the average for Summer months and was managing 3000 faults in the last week of June, making repair times “undesirably long” in several areas: Waikato, 75 hours; Auckland, 48 hours; Upper South Island, 31 hours.
It seems more than half those 3000 faults were caused not by bad weather but by an errant contractor. Chorus general manager of infrastructure, Ed Beattie, said: “In Auckland last week … a property developer cut through a cable on our network, leaving more than 1600 consumers without service. This would have caused a large increase in calls to Internet service providers’ call centres.”
Those calls would also have thwarted Spike’s attempts to anticipate the call centre workload. Spike said it used weather forecasts to help it determine the number of call centre agents to roster on.
Dalzell said that high wait times have been a challenging issue for a number of months. “We know we have lots of customers who end up waiting on the phone for too long, and we’re determined to fix things. We’re hiring more customer care agents, improving our digital channels and stepping up efforts to better inform customers about online tools so customers can get help, faster,” she said.
Spark has begun hiring 130 customer care agents, but says it will take some time to get them on board and fully trained. It is also trialling a system that will contact customers via text or email to advise them of any faults or maintenance in their area, avoiding the need to call, Dalzell said.