GCI logo

GCI is moving its Alaska-based call center to the Philippines in late summer in an attempt to hire more people and improve customer service.

General Communication Inc. is planning to contract a third-party vendor in the Philippines to receive customer support calls, said Heather Handyside, GCI’s vice president of corporate communications. Currently, 142 local employees respond to those calls, but GCI is struggling to fill about 30% of their job openings, which affects the quality of their customer support service, Handyside said.

“For our consumer customer service calls, right now they go to employees in Alaska, and some of the customers need to be on hold for up to 90 minutes,” Handyside said. “We hope that the transition will help us decrease the call wait times, expand the call line service to 24/7 and provide customer support whenever our customers need it.”

Sharon Metcalf is a GCI customer in Fairbanks, and when she calls the customer support line, she said she usually waits anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for a response. However, one of her main complaints is that the customer support staff is not local enough.

“You used to be able to call someone in GCI and talk to someone in Fairbanks,” Metcalf said. “Over the years, they moved to Anchorage, and Anchorage is a different country. We have to go through explaining to them how things and channels work here over and over.”

Handyside said that GCI tried to hire and retain more people locally by offering sign-up bonuses and promoting existing employees, but hiring stays a challenge, both for GCI and in similar industries.

The transition to the new contractor won’t happen until August, and the current GCI employees have a secure job until that, Handyside said. Besides, GCI is assisting their employees in job search, inviting them to apply at other jobs at GCI and offering them severance packages.

“We look forward to taking care of our employees,” Handyside said, “And we are looking forward to taking care of our customers.”

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.