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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Verizon Wireless to close Honolulu call center

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

Verizon Wireless plans to close its Honolulu call center by Jan. 31 and lay off or transfer most of the center's 65 employees.

The center, which handles service calls for Verizon Wireless' Hawai'i customers, is the latest of a half-dozen Honolulu call centers to close since 2001 as the economy has slowed. Companies including Sprint PCS, Federal Express and Northwest Airline have closed their call centers here, each laying off dozens of workers.

Last week, Genesys Conferencing said it would close its downtown Honolulu call center and lay off most of its 100 employees.

Industry experts say the moves come as companies build Mainland "megacenters" that can handle far more calls than Hawai'i for a fraction of the per-call cost.

Verizon Wireless spokesman Andrew Colley said his company has spent $100 million to build a network of Mainland call centers with 800 to 1,000 employees each. The Hawai'i center was too small and unable to grow, he said.

"This is part of our plan to increase efficiency," he said. "We're focusing on those call centers that are able to expand; as a result, some needed to be closed."

Despite the closures, Hawai'i Call Centers Association president Kevin Johnson says the industry is viable here. He said companies like AT&T, which has a thriving Hawai'i call center, are succeeding by creating special niches, like multilingual services that would be hard to duplicate on the Mainland.

Verizon Wireless will maintain about 90 employees in Hawai'i after closing the call center, which was a GTE Wireless call center until that company was absorbed by Verizon Wireless earlier this year. Verizon Wireless is a Mainland-based sister company of local phone service provider Verizon Hawaii.