Call center glitch puts help on hold

Shelby County's new Call Center hit a major glitch Monday morning as thousands of people tried to call in to get help paying their utility bill.

Many callers got a busy signal when they tried to get through.

The call center was designed to keep customers who need help paying their utility bills from having to wait in line. Linda Crawley says it's frustrating. "I've tried all day today to get through on this number 545-2200. and I get through and it disconnects."

There seems to be confusion about exactly what caused the glitch today.

The company that manages the phone switchboard software says it was a Bell South problem, but Bell South begs to differ.

Shelby County set up the call center to help 1,000 MLGW customers with cut-off notices. The only problem: 16,000 people have cut-off notices this month.

The surge of people wanting help turned the county phone system upside down. "We turned all the lines on and the calls didn't seem to be coming through," said Sybille Noble, Shelby County Assistant C.A.O.

County officials say for an hour and a half Monday, every government number with a 545 prefix was off line, from the county building to the courthouse.

The county says it didn't pose a public safety issue because 911 was on line. "We anticipated that kind of traffic, but we ran into a bottleneck on the Bell South side, but they did everything they could to help us get it straight," said County Telecommunications Manager, Rob Meyer.

But that's not the story Action News 5 heard from Bell South Spokesperson Bill Ray. "There wasn't any issues on our end that we could determine throughout this morning," he said.

County spokesperson Gwen McClain says the conflicting stories might be a result of a last-minute decision to expand call center hours to deal with an influx of public interest.

She says Bell-South might not have had enough time to shift gears. Despite first-day complications, the county says it's a good system and they'll use it again. The county says they've fixed the glitches for Tuesday when they're open from 8 a.m. To 4:30p.m.

They say despite today's troubles, people did not have to wait on long lines like in the past.