February 1, 1999
Service, Contracts and Equity
An Agent Roundtable
PHONE+ recently hosted an editorial roundtable with several members of the now-infamous
20 Group, a band of independent agents that frequently assembles to share experiences and
insights on the business of selling telecommunications services independently.
As every agent manager knows, independent agents won’t hesitate to speak their mind.
This dialogue was no different, but some of it was not for attribution. In those
instances, we utilized a fictitious character named "Fat Pipe." The discourse
was so compelling that we’ve decided to publish it all–in three parts. Last month in the
first installment, our esteemed panelists discussed agent equity programs. This month, we
pick up the conversation as they discuss customer service, and in March we will hear what
they have to say about contracts.
Ronald Bohm, Principal, King Communications, Hoffman
Jim Butler, Principal, TeleCHOICE, Vista, Calif.
Jim Gledhill, President, National Telecommunications Consultants Inc., Sandy, Utah
Gene Foster, President, Communications Management Services (CMS), San Diego
Ben Humphries, President, COMTEL Communications Services, Whitestone, Va.
Barbara Kubarych, Principal, Network Carrier Consultants, Del Mar, Calif.
Jay Lewis, President, VISIONCOM, West Bloomfield, Mich.
J.M. Neale, III, President, COMTEL Communications Services, Whitestone, Va.
Michael Parizanski, President, RepCom, Wheaton, Ill.
Greg Praske, CEO, Association Resource Group (ARG), Washington
Bill Power, President, ARG, Washington
Ladd Richland, CEO, SourceONE Communications, Long Beach, Calif.
Bill Stevens, Master Agent, Mayfair Group Inc., Chicago
Kenny Wilder, Senior Consultant, ECT Telecommunications for Less, Birmingham, Ala.
Bob Titsch Jr.: Let’s start with a subject that none of you care about:
Kenny Wilder: Agents care about three things: commissions, customer satisfaction
Titsch: Do all of you agree with that?
Ben Humphries: I don’t agree because the degradation of customer service in the
industry is getting so bad that we have to employ more people to make up the difference. I
think we’re approaching a point where customer service is equally important as
commissions, maybe even higher. That’s back-office support, billing, the whole nine yards.
Titsch: Where do carriers need to improve most?
Ronald Bohm: When I call any carrier, whether it be one that I sell for or one
that the customer is using, it’s almost impossible to get a live person on the phone
within 10 minutes. That may not address the issue of the quality of customer service, but
a lot of my customers are very aggravated when they have to wait a long time and punch a
lot of digits on an auto-attendant system just to get to somebody real. When they finally
get through that process, they better get good service from somebody who understands their
problem and doesn’t give them the runaround because they’ve just been frazzled, and
they’ve wasted their time.
-Ben Humphries, Presdent, COMTEL Communications Services
Greg Praske: We’re very frustrated with that situation. After waiting on hold,
Bill Power: Ideally, what we would like to have is the ability to take care of
If we can take the request, get online and enter the request and have it done,
Barbara Kubarych: We’ve been hearing that for years: "It’s coming next
Humphries: I’ll go a step further. Online capabilities with the carrier/reseller
Titsch: Does anybody around the table have online access for moves, adds and
Power: That works? (Hands lower. LAUGHTER.) If it’s not going to work, I’d
Jay Lewis: I haven’t found a customer service center yet that can actually tell
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