Qwest Holds Largest Partner Meeting to Date

About 400 agents for Qwest Communications International Inc. came to Denver this week for the companys annual Qwest Business Partner Program meeting, making it the largest QMarketplace gathering to date.

Called QMarketplace, the event features networking and education on the companys products and back-office systems and policies. The meeting also is an opportunity for partners to hear from top executives at the phone company.

CEO Richard Notebaert kicked off the meeting and highlighted Qwests consistent commitment to the channel, particularly as compared with many of its rivals. He said the company has fixed its financial problems and now is able to turn more of its attentions and resources to its customers.

Notebaert said the megamergers create an opportunity for competitors like Qwest to grab market share.

No matter how good [the matchup] is, it is extremely disruptive, he said, explaining that AT&T and Verizon Communications Inc./MCI Inc. will become internally focused and must look at how to integrate systems, and how to go to market, including their distribution channels.

We have a window and we should take advantage of it, he said.

Partners also were introduced to the new executive vice president of the Business Markets Group, Tom Richards. Richards, who has been at Qwest for nine months, replaced Cliff Holtz.

Richards said the channel accounts for 20 percent of sales for BMG and said he is an advocate of channel integration. A formal program to share best practices for channel integration among retail sales directors will begin this quarter.

He also is formally classifying the channel as a customer and has assigned to it a market manager in much the same way government accounts have an internal ombudsman.

The new manager, John Gellen, will advocate for the channel and move the channels concerns to the front line, said Jeff Clark, QBPPs vice president.

Clark said QBPP is launching its first bonus program in a number of years. After a successful mid-year test in 2005, a formal program was launched for 2006 that enables partners to earn payouts of $25,000 to $100,000 on year-over-year sales growth.

In addition, QBPP has pushed access to its legacy (regulated) OSS systems to the partners. Premiere master agents were put online in December and other partners are coming online in first quarter. Clark said this is an interim step toward a promised universal interface into the companys back office.

He said that with the financial restructuring completed, Qwest will be able to turn its attentions and capital resources toward a consolidated back office that eventually will be pushed to the channel.

He said he is predicting 20 percent year-over-year growth for QBPP.

Qwest Communications International Inc.


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