COLUMBUS — A lot has changed in the 42 years since Deb Lassek started working in what is now the Frontier Communications office.
At the end of August, she’ll witness the end of an era as she locks up the downtown Columbus office for the last time and goes into retirement.
In 1975, the building at 1366 27th Ave. was the local office for General Telephone and Electric Corporation, where Lassek worked as a phone operator.
“People don't know what an operator is anymore,” she said.
In 2000, it was bought out by Citizens Telecommunications Company of Nebraska, which later transitioned to Frontier Communications.
As the company changed and downsized over the years, Lassek stayed on by taking whatever jobs were available.
“I went into the business office, I went into assignment, I went into supply and even had to drive a truck,” she said. “As they kept closing departments because it kept going away from being local, then I would move to whatever was left.”
She’s been in customer service for more than 20 years. As more of the company has been outsourced, that job got more difficult.
"When we had it all here local I think it ran smoother because we would just call the guys up and say, 'Hey, go over to this place,' when we had more control," she said.
Now, Lassek said, she can’t even get other departments on the phone.
“I have to fill out a form I have to email,” she said.
Lassek believes the changes have been hard on customers, too.
“When we had it here, we knew people, people knew us. We wanted to do right by them. When you're talking to somebody in another state, they'll never see you again or talk to you,” she said. “And it’s not to blame them because they handle so many states.”
Like phone operators, Lassek said customer service is becoming a thing of the past.
There used to be three customer service representatives at the local office, but only Lassek remains.
“I said, 'How do you run a business with one person?'" she said. “I'd even hate to go on vacation sometimes because I knew what I was going to come back to.”
Lassek is happy she'll be retiring, but worried about the customers.
“I was their only contact when they couldn't get through to the 1-800 number,” she said. “When they'd have trouble or issues, it never seemed to get resolved for them.”
The Frontier office in Kearney also closes at the end of the month, leaving the state without a physical location.
Lassek said she’ll spend her retirement taking care of her grandchildren and cleaning out her house. But she’ll miss one part of the job.
“I will miss the customers,” she said. “A lot of them became like family to me. I've seen them as they've grown up, I've seen them pass away.”