For Unwary Customers, AT&T's "00" Service
Means "Uh-oh" Instead, Bell Atlantic Warns
411 and 555-1212 a Better Deal
for Most Customers
September 3, 1998
Jim Smith ,
NEW YORK -- Inflated rhetoric -- and prices to match -- are the essence
of AT&T's new directory assistance advertising, Bell Atlantic warns.
"AT&T is luring customers into an expensive trap," said Terry Beggy, Bell
Atlantic vice president-marketing for operator services. "Its high-gloss
advertising promotes using '00' for local directory assistance instead of
411, but the ads are long on sizzle and short on substance.
"AT&T tells customers to 'forget 411 and 555-1212' but never mentions
that customers will pay up to five times the cost of a Bell Atlantic directory
assistance call," Beggy said.
According to Beggy, customers who use AT&T's service for local listings
get no advantage over Bell Atlantic's directory assistance service, but can
be charged 95 cents. Bell Atlantic's directory assistance prices, established
under local tariffs, start at 20 cents in New Jersey for two local listings.
Residence customers also may get an allowance from Bell Atlantic for a
number of free calls each month.
The AT&T ads also are misleading because they imply that you can reach
its service from any phone. In fact, the directory assistance service is
available only on phones for which AT&T is the primary long distance
carrier. Calls to "00" from other phones will be connected to an operator
for the long distance company that serves that line.
"The ads rave about how AT&T operators provide accurate listings.
That's a requirement for any directory service provider, so what's the big
deal?" she said.
Bell Atlantic operators providing local directory assistance continue a long
tradition of high quality customer service. They are trained to use state of
the art search tools to access a database that is updated daily based on
actual customer records. Even if a caller doesn't have the correct spelling,
these search tools can automatically look for alternate spellings -- names
like Smythe or businesses like Karl's Kute Kurtains.
Bell Atlantic also is planning to introduce a look-up service that can give
callers any listing in the country with the same accuracy as the company's
local directory assistance service and at a fair price.
"We measure customer satisfaction, and 95 percent of our customers
report complete satisfaction with our service," she said. "No glitz, just
customer satisfaction at a great price. We call that value."
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information
industry. With more than 41 million telephone access lines and more than
seven 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.