04.21.1999|Corporate

Bell Atlantic Launches 'National 411' Service in New Jersey

Bell Atlantic Launches 'National 411' Service in New Jersey

No-Nonsense Directory Assistance Service Offers Separate Prices for Local and National Listings

April 21, 1999

Media contact: Jim Smith, 973-649-8850
Soraya Rodriguez, 973-649-2279

NEWARK, N.J. -- With one bold step, Bell Atlantic is coming to the rescue of telephone customers in New Jersey who are confused over where to call for accurate directory assistance information or are unwilling to pay inflated prices for local listings.

"We're declaring an end to the distressing customer concern over where to get accurate listings for any phone number in the country at a fair price," said Kitty Linder, vice president of operator services for Bell Atlantic. "Starting today, callers in New Jersey can simply dial 4-1- 1 for directory assistance anywhere in the United States.

"Bell Atlantic's systems will automatically bill for local listings at our regular low price of 20 cents, after a residential customer has made six free local directory assistance calls in a month. All requests for national listings will be billed at a competitive 95 cents," Linder said.

Competing directory assistance services charge up to $1.40 for all lookups, local and national. "Consumers often don't know they are likely to pay more than they have to when they ask for a local listing from these services," she said.

A Bell Atlantic advertising campaign targeted to customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York will promote the new National 411 Directory Assistance service. New York was the first state in the company's serving area to offer the new service, now available in 11 states. National 411 will be available in all 13 states served by Bell Atlantic and the District of Columbia by summer.

With National 411, customers simply dial the familiar "411" code for directory assistance, say the state, city and name or business whose number they want and the operator will provide it. Operators in New Jersey will hand the call off to a second operator, who will search for and provide the listing. This hand-off is required temporarily for New Jersey customers pending a change in technology and will not significantly slow down call processing.

"Our mission is simple -- to give excellent service at fair prices and to keep directory assistance as hassle-free as it has always been," she said.

Linder noted the new service makes life easier for callers as well. "Customers no longer need to know the area code for the listing they want -- just the city and state. With the proliferation of new area codes, this will make finding a number easier for our customers."

The simple 4-1-1 phone number also eliminates the need to remember a long 10-10 dial-around numbers like the ones AT&T and MCI use for their services.

Bell Atlantic's ad campaign will feature TV and radio spots that present anecdotes about customers who need distant phone numbers. Bell Atlantic spokesperson James Earl Jones appears, phantom-like, and presents the solution: National 411 from Bell Atlantic.

Confusion over where to get quality listings at a fair price started when long distance companies began to actively promote national directory assistance services.

Long distance companies first provided phone listings by purchasing the service from local telephone companies. In recent years, however, long distance companies declared war with the local companies and began developing their own services. Customers began to complain about erroneous listings caused, in part, by the comparatively weak skills of operators at centralized, far-away facilities.

"Now, Bell Atlantic operators who are trained experts in searching for and delivering accurate listings will be able look up numbers nationwide for our customers," Linder said.

Bell Atlantic is installing new software in the directory assistance systems throughout its territory and training operators to process requests for national numbers.

Operators in states that already offer National 411 report that customer reaction has been positive and enthusiastic.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 42 million telephone access lines and 8.6 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.

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