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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Investigative Reporter Mike Mason exposes major 'communications breakdown' at Atlanta-based company, Birch Communications

Link to report: http://t.co/7HUtSfxfLk

ATLANTA (CBS46) - A CBS46 exclusive shows an Atlanta-based company is now coming under fire for a major "communications breakdown." Small-business owners rely on the company like a lifeline, but one shop owner tells us how a recent problem nearly shut him down.
Birch Communications is based in Atlanta and according to its website, it provides internet and phone services to 200,000 customers nationwide, catering mainly to small businesses.
Now the company is blaming a small computer glitch on what ended up costing some customers big bucks.
Richard Ramey is the owner of Flower Cottage in East Point. According to him, he's losing thousands of dollars a day.
"We came in Monday morning with no phone service, no internet, no anything," Ramey said. With no way for customers to reach the florist, Ramey can't contact them either.
Beatriz Allende was a little worried about funeral preps after not hearing back from the shop she had ordered flowers from. Ramey has been in business for the past 26 years, until Monday.
"All I want is my service back or some explanation, someone to reach out to me and help," Ramey said. "That's all I asked of them is to help."
The shop's phone lines were dead and internet disconnected, making it impossible to process orders or credit cards.
"If it's a bad credit card or it's an over the limit card, we'll just be out the money," Ramey said. "We're just taking a chance right now."
Birch Communications couldn't seem to explain what the problem was. When Ramey called customer service the operator told him, "Hopefully we'll be working on the issue to resolve this issue.”
CBS46 then called Birch's customer service line and even we got nowhere after being transferred several times. We asked how many customers were affected by the outage and the operator replied, "I have no idea sir. I don't know what to tell you on that."
Then, less than an hour later, the floral shop was back in business and the computers began connecting to the internet. The shop's receptionist exclaimed, "I got the email up. We're online."
But we wanted to speak with Birch's boss to find out what went wrong. We went to the corporate headquarters in Buckhead to speak with CEO Vincent Oddo, but instead we got his executive assistant. She told us Oddo was meeting with staff at Birch's Operations Center in Cobb County and we should go there to speak with him.
"We're sending someone into the meeting to pull him out," said the executive assistant.
Once we got to Birch's Operations Center, we were met once again by someone other than the CEO. Melanie Kreh is the vice president of marketing and spoke on Birch's behalf. When asked about what caused the outage in East Point, Kreh told us, "Well, we can take that one and look into it specifically and take that one as feedback."
Kreh also told us the outage was caused when the IT department updated IP addresses, so essentially a computer glitch caused the problems. She also claims it was isolated to only 400 customers and it's not unusual for these types of things to occur.
That wasn't the rosy response Ramey had hoped for.
"I'm very upset. I'm more upset with the customer service," Ramey said.
Birch officials say they'll compensate customers who lost service and money and will provide better customer support if anything like this happens in the future.
Ramey called CBS46 to say he lost phone and internet service again just before closing, When we hear back from Birch about what's going on, we'll let you know.

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