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Chorus focused on single-visit connections for customers

Chorus focused on single-visit connections for customers

By Paul McBeth

Nov. 1 (BusinessDesk) - Chorus wants to have half its customers connected in just one visit by Christmas, as part of a wider programme it says will make life easier for its users.

The telecommunications network operator completed a record 50,000 quarterly fast fibre installations in the September period, with lead times for connections tracking at eight days, down from 13 in June. That's the result of being a more active wholesaler and working more closely with retail providers to improve customer experience, chief executive Kate McKenzie told shareholders today.

"These initiatives, combined with the strong retail competition created by New Zealand’s separated fixed-line networks, have helped lift fibre demand to record levels," she said.

Chorus contracts out its installation work, and those service firms have added 185 crews in the past year to meet escalating demand. McKenzie said the company is refining processes to lift productivity and reduce the effort required by customers to get connected. That's included sharing more information with retail providers.

"We have a big programme of work underway to reduce the time taken to connect customers to fibre to just a single visit by us," McKenzie said. "Initial trials have produced great feedback from retailers and in a few days we’ll be releasing about 30 percent of our address base to retailers as the first phase in this initiative."

The end goal for the initiative is to have 50 percent of customers connected after one visit compared to the 25 percent currently.

If successful, McKenzie expects that will lift customer satisfaction scores which improved but missed the company's target in the June 2018 financial year.

The focus comes as Chorus puts the employment practices of sub-contractors building the fibre network under the microscope after a Labour Inspectorate inquiry found widespread issues. In the 2018 financial year, one of its service firms ended a relationship with a sub-contractor over claims workers were employed on a voluntary basis.

Chair Patrick Strange said the company was disappointed with the findings and is working with its primary contractors to stamp out those issues. Any lessons will be shared with other companies facing similar problems, he said.

Contracting firms have faced staffing issues as growing demand for fibre doubled the number of people in the field to about 4,000 in what's expected to be the peak.

Strange rejected claims that quality has been sacrificed during the roll-out. He says spot checks show just 1 percent of installations require a repeat visit, compared to the industry benchmark of 4-5 percent.

Chorus shares fell 1.1 percent to $4.70.


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