WASHINGTON -- Beginning today, dialing "0" will provide more Washington, D.C. area callers with shortcuts to many of the Verizon Communications services they frequently call.
Verizon's year-long trial of the "Easy 0sm" access tool has proven so successful with customers that it is being introduced throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Over the coming weeks, the service will be added to Verizon's call-switching systems supporting tens of thousands of new customers each day until it is available to nearly all Verizon customers in the area.
Easy 0 is the automated menu callers reach when they dial "0" that gives them one-button access to services they normally request from operators. Dialing Easy 0 makes it as easy as pressing a button when callers want to reach the local business office to order services or discuss billing, repair services to report problems, or traditional operator services like collect or credit card calling.
"With Easy 0, callers get what they want faster and without having to dial another number," said Kitty Linder, president of operator services for Verizon. "After more than a year of testing in three major markets, we have nearly unanimous customer acceptance of the service, and we've decided to roll it out to all our customers."
According to Verizon studies, fewer than three percent of customers in trial areas had comments on the new service and, among those who expressed opinions, very few disliked the simplified access process.
Verizon began testing the new service after studies showed that more than half the calls to '0,' Verizon's call completion service, didn't belong there. Customers either wanted another Verizon department or assistance the operator could not give. When that happened, customers had to hang up and dial the correct number or wait to be transferred.
For example, studies revealed 11 percent of callers who dialed "0" actually wanted directory assistance, which is available by dialing 411. Among the more than 40 percent of miscellaneous calls handled by call completion operators were requests for the temperature, the cooking time for turkeys and the number of eggs used to bake a cake.
Nearly 25 percent of calls to operators are from customers who do not know where to call to order new services, request telephone repair or resolve billing questions.
With Easy 0 access, customers hear a standard greeting and then seven choices. Pressing the single digit that matches the appropriate choice makes an instant connection to the service they need.
The choices are:
- Automatic connection to the appropriate emergency police, fire or ambulance agency.
- Traditional operator services for placing collect, bill-to-third-party or credit-card calls.
- Verification and interruption of a busy line.
- Assistance for callers with special needs.
- Verizon local and national 411.
- Telephone repair service.
- Business or residence service centers for ordering services or discussing billing.
Trials of Easy 0 began in July 1999 in Wheaton, Md., and recently were expanded to Silver Spring, Md.; Washington, D.C.; Northern Virginia, suburban Philadelphia and metropolitan New York City.
"Our trials have shown that skeptics who say menus are cold and impersonal are wrong," Linder said. "Customers are more and more interested in personal service. And that's exactly what they get with Easy 0 access - speedy dispatch of their call to the right person who's ready to help."
The initial trial proved that asking an operator, whose job is to assist in completing calls, for other services or information wasted both the caller's and the operator's time. The new menu eliminates that. Verizon expects that customers will learn the menu selections they use the most, further expediting their service.
The first menu option provides an immediate connection to emergency services to expedite assistance for callers who dial 0 instead of 911. Callers who follow the prompt to "dial 9 now" will be connected automatically to their local public safety emergency answering center. For a very small number of customers who use rotary or pulse dialing telephones connected to certain Verizon switching systems, the Easy 0 menu can only be used to get operator assistance in reaching emergency services. Of course, dialing 911 directly is still the preferred dialing for emergencies.
Verizon will expand its Easy 0 access service across the metropolitan New York City calling area and Northern New Jersey this fall and eventually into other areas it serves. Customers in some areas will not be part of the current project but can expect the new menu feature in the future.
The new menu selections are:
- For emergency police, fire or ambulance service, press or dial 9 now.
- To place a collect, calling-card or bill-to-third-party call, press 2. Enter area code and number you are calling now. (Call will be routed via the appropriate carrier, either Verizon or the customer's regional-toll or long-distance carrier).
- To verify or interrupt a busy line, press 3.
- To obtain a local or national telephone number or area code information, press 4.
- To reach Verizon's repair service, press 5.
- To reach Verizon's business office, press 6 (followed by 1 for home service or 2 for business service).
- To repeat the menu, press 7 now or, for special assistance, please hold for an operator.
Patent protection for Verizon's Easy 0 system is pending.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with more than 100 million access line equivalents and more than 26 million wireless customers. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.