Chorus is looking to recruit an extra 250 technicians and staff to cope with the massive demand for copper and fibre networks, particularly over the winter months.
Chorus released a statement apologising to customers who have had copper network faults for too long, caused in part by fault increases due to the weather. The company aims to deal with faults within 48 hours, but this has increased to an average of more than 60 hours or much longer. Chorus says it is making improvements an immediate priority.
“We have had an unfortunate set of circumstances, including very wet weather and several major cable cuts by third parties, which has meant we've been playing catch up for the last couple of weeks. Taking more than a day or two to fix faults is clearly unacceptable, both to ourselves and our customers. It's not good enough and I apologise to customers who are frustrated waiting for a fix," says Ed Beattie, general manager infrastructure.
Chorus has added more than 2000 employees since 2011, bringing the total staff number to around 3700. However Beattie says that with a staff shortage, it has become difficult to respond immediately to longer fault timeframes. The company knows it needs to fill the staff shortage with skilled technicians.
“We have scoured New Zealand for potential technicians, and also brought in technicians from around the world to help meet the demand, but it's still not enough. It's not a matter of budgets or willingness, we simply need more people and the “help wanted” sign is well and truly out," Beattie says.
Chorus says it has moved technicians from other work and locations to fix copper faults in Auckland, where the fault waiting time is generally much longer than in the rest of the country, while the fibre installation demand tops 600 installations per day.
“At the same time, we are competing with the Christchurch rebuild, the Auckland housing demands and the NBN build in Australia for skilled technicians, and like all of those we are finding the potential labour pool to be too small to meet all of our needs.
While there is a skills shortage, Beattie says that high quality workmanship, customer service and the right skill set are also crucial in the role for good customer experience within customers' homes.
“We have left no stone unturned, including working with WINZ, running job fairs, hiring technicians from overseas, working with other companies who may no longer need as many technician staff, and working with Government to make hiring overseas workers with relevant skills easier. We run extensive training programmes, as do our service company partners, and we are adding around 25 new technicians to our field force every week," Beattie explains.
The company says that the improvements to fault restoration performance has seen fault backlogs halve, while it will continue reporting performance until it is back to normal levels, while fault volumes have been decreasing over the past six years. The company has also improving copper infrastructure while offering VDSL broadband to four out of every five lines.
“We know this is a challenge across many sectors, and we remained focused on significantly improving performance as we find and train up ever increasing numbers of technicians,” Beattie concludes.
Fault restoration performance month to date at 19 July 2016
- Total Chorus lines: 1,747,000 (as reported 15 April 2016)
- Faults currently logged with Chorus: 22,851
- Faults restored month to date: 22,437
- Average time to restore: 60.1 hours
- Currently open faults: 3,261