Bell Atlantic Launches 'National 411' in Virginia
No-Nonsense Directory Assistance Service Offers
Separate Prices for Local and National Listings
March 1, 1999
Jim Smith ,
RICHMOND -- With one bold step, Bell Atlantic is coming to the rescue
of Virginia telephone customers confused over where to call for accurate
directory assistance information or unwilling to pay inflated prices for
"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, Virginians in the 757, 804 and 540 area codes can simply
dial 4-1-1 for directory assistance anywhere in the United States.
"As our ads say, 'now the number you know for local directory assistance
can get you a number in all 50 states'.
"Bell Atlantic's systems will automatically bill for local listings at our
regular low price of 29 cents and for national listings 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 that they are likely to be paying more than
they have to when they ask for a local listing from these services," she
Today, Bell Atlantic began an aggressive advertising campaign targeted to
customers in Virginia promoting its new National 411 Directory
Assistance service. New York was the first state in the company's serving
area to get the new service, with all 13 states and the District of Columbia
due to receive the service in coming months. The service is planned for
northern Virginia and metropolitan Washington later this spring.
With National 411, customers simply dial the familiar "411" code, say the
city, state and name or business whose number they want and the operator
will provide it.
"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 access number also eliminates the need to remember a
long 10-10 dial-around number like the ones AT&T and MCI use for their
Bell Atlantic's new ad campaign features TV and radio spots that present
anecdotes about customers who need distant numbers. Bell Atlantic
spokesperson James Earl Jones appears, phantom-like, and presents the
solution: National 411 from Bell Atlantic.
The actor is scheduled to visit operator service centers in Hampton and
Richmond today to help launch National 411 in Virginia.
Confusion over where to get quality listings at a fair price started when
long distance carriers began to actively promote national directory
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. National 411 service will become available across the
Bell Atlantic territory as systems and software are installed and operators
As part of their training over the past few weeks, operators in Virginia
who were asked for an area code began offering to retrieve listings for
customers. Operators report that customer reaction has been positive and
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.