Adds Customer-Centric Workers Around Country

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There is no question that it’s getting more difficult for customer service representatives and field technicians to do their job as the cable industry has morphed from being a single-service provider of video to a bundler of services.

When Kevin Iantorno began his job as a cable technician seven years ago, he didn’t know a thing about computers. And he didn’t have to. Today, he deftly manipulates home computers and networks to install high-speed Internet and digital telephone service, according to a July 25 Denver Post article.

“When I started this job, I didn’t even know how to move the mouse,” Iantorno told the Post. “Now, I’m dealing with people’s home networks. I can take a computer apart and put it back together again.”

Comcast spokeswoman Cindy Parsons told the newspaper that the cable operator has hired more field technicians and two more trainers to serve its Colorado customers. “We have increased our training budget, classes and staff in response to our current growth,” Parsons said. Comcast has 4,000 employees to serve its 700,000 Colorado customers, and roughly one-third of those workers are technicians. Entry-level technician jobs pay $13 an hour, and workers can earn more as they become better trained.

“It would be pretty tough to just come out of high school and get one of those jobs. You’re going to need to get some technical education in electronics,” said Alan Babcock, VP and chief learning officer for Jones/NCTI. His company offers college certificates in broadband technical management, broadband digital management and broadband telephony technology. In addition, more technicians are returning to school to earn associate degrees in electronics, computer programming and networking, Babcock said.

“The real challenge is that the traditional TV stuff hasn’t gone away,” he said. “In addition to everything a technician needed to know five to 10 years ago, there’s more stuff on top of that. Inside the home is tremendously more complex today. There are infinite types of equipment that need to work together.”

Meanwhile, local incumbent telephone provider Qwest Communications counts 535 technicians in the Denver/Boulder area, according to the Post.

In addition to the three weeks of training for basic phone installation, Qwest techs must complete another two weeks for high-speed Internet, or digital subscriber line, installation and repair. They must also spend time riding along with a more experienced tech before doing an Internet install alone. But before attending those advanced classes, workers have to pass a “prequalification” test of basic computer skills.

“I can’t get my guys trained fast enough,” said Qwest director of network operations Rick Mabry.

Denver isn’t the only place Comcast is adding staff and expanding training. Company spokesman Jenni Moyer said Comcast expects to hire over 3,000 customer care across the country to better handle customer demand of new services.

Some examples:

Comcast is adding 112 jobs in its Pierce County, Wash., operations. The majority of the jobs will be for technicians, with the rest crossing the broad categories of engineering, sales and customer care. The additions come on the heels of another round of hiring, which netted 30 jobs in March. Overall, Comcast is adding 284 jobs in Washington state, including 21 jobs in Olympia. Overall, these job additions will increase the number of Comcast employees in the state to about 3,000. Comcast will add over 400 new employees to its New England roster over the next 90 days, including 150 front-line technicians and 130 customer service reps. Comcast anticipates it will employ more than 6,000 professionals in New England, up 10% from a year ago.

More than 100 customer service reps and field technicians will be added to Comcast’s operations in Utah over the next 18 months.

Comcast is adding 500 new jobs in the San Francisco Bay area over the next 60 days. With these new jobs, Comcast will have added nearly 2,200 permanent, full-time positions in the Bay Area since 2003. Comcast projects it will have nearly 6,000 employees in the Bay Area by the end of the year. The majority of jobs are for front-line technicians, with the rest crossing the broad categories of engineering, sales and customer care.

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