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Channel Leaders Discuss Mega Mergers — Part II: Channel Impact

By Khali Henderson
December 22, 2011 - Article
Continued from page 2

Foster: I want to go back to what Blake left off with — the advisory board. It's an absolutely critical function that advisory boards play in the evolution of all the folks here on the panel. We just had one a few weeks ago. In that environment we share our product road map, our systems road map and go-to-market strategy and vet it. From that, we take almost a subgroup if you will on the systems  and back office. For us, we look at the changes we have made and where those map to where you want us to go.

First and foremost, it's customer experience. It's the ability to give the customer mobile apps to look at their network, to have "find me, follow me" mobile integration, embrace the cloud. There is a lot of that capability that's in the hype stage or in reality.

What we did is we took channel integration to another level. When we brought these companies together we had almost five call centers that were working on mostly direct. We took those folks and we turn them into partner managers.  What we've done is take a bunch of folks on the east coast and west coast so there are butts in seats ready to answer phones. Sure I have a channel team, but I want to have  from 4 a.m. PT to 6 p.m. PT someone to answer your questions. We have accomplished that. That's something we feel good about. ...We created an agent call center with specific folks focused on your business. That was a fun win for us right away. As we look forward, it will be more go-to-market innovation and system innovation. ...

Prinzi: We basically built a channel from the ground up. We literally merged four channel programs that were already owned or acquired by EarthLink within a four month period of time. We combined them into one program. The four companies were Deltacom, New Edge Networks, One Communications and STS in South Florida. Not all of those four companies were of like mind from an agent perspective. And, so that's probably the biggest thing that we have changed — the cultural focus in the company with regard to the channel.

Myself and JR [Cook, vice president of sales — channel partners,] and even our CEO Rolla Huff have experience with the channel for years now and came out of New Edge, where we had a very partner-friendly program. On the other extreme was Deltacom, which as many of you know in 2009 for the most part shut its program down completely in the Southeast. We are ratcheting hat program back up.

We also have many of our agents with multiple contract s with us. They might have been selling New Edge and maybe a contract with One Comm or Deltacom or STS. So we are rationalizing all of those contracts. And, with the launch of our nationwide products that we just announced, we are going back to all of our agents and getting a new EarthLink Business agreement signed. We've already completed quite a few and are in negotiations to finalize the rest.

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