MCI Agents to Verizon: Can You Hear Us Now?

Calling themselves the "We Will Not Sign" coalition, the group distributed a mass e-mail late Wednesday to legacy MCI agents asking them to contact the coalition if the 2007 Verizon Solution Provider Program (VSPP) contract could hurt their businesses.

The coalition's efforts underscore discontent with the VSPP contract, which is an attempt by Verizon to consolidate its agents with those it won in its acquisition of MCI.

Verizon effectively fired more than 100 legacy MCI agents by not even offering them VSPP contracts. Those legacy MCI agents that were offered the contract were expected to sign before being told by Verizon what their sales quotas were.

Viewed by CRN, the coalition e-mail contains a picture of three people dressed in business garb behind a protest sign bearing the words "Hey Verizon: We will not sign! Can you hear us now?"

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Below the picture in the coalition e-mail is this message:

"Join the We will not sign Coalition today with several other former MCI Solution Partners who are outraged with the new agreement Verizon is attempting to get MCI Partners to sign. The new agreement terminates and/or eliminates almost all your rights and security in your existing MCI Base, writes down your current residual commissions up to 80% upon renewal of contracts and restricts your ability to service and support your larger clients. If the new agreement is going to severely impact your business email [email protected] TODAY. Your identity will be kept in strict confidence and you will be contacted within 2-3 business days by a representative."

The coalition e-mail was distributed to a list of MCI agents which included those terminated as Verizon partners after not receiving the VSPP contract, a source said.

Verizon, which declined to comment on this story, held a strategy meeting Wednesday at its Basking Ridge, N.J., offices with agents who signed the 2007 VSPP contract.

At the Basking Ridge meeting, Verizon executives said that about 90 agents had been bought into the VSPP so far, according to an agent source at the meeting. Most of the 90 agents were legacy MCI agents, because Verizon traditionally did not have all that many agents to begin with, the source said. How many of the legacy MCI agents elected to opt for the exclusive clause of the VSPP contract was not announced. In the past, all Verizon agents -- except for subagents -- were exclusive, which in part accounts for their small numbers, the source said.

Verizon executives at the Basking Ridge meeting told agents in attendance that the 2007 VSPP arrangement was not perfect because of the challenges of bringing together the separate channel organizations of Verizon and MCI, the source said. Verizon executives said that quotas would arrive in mid-January, and that any problems agents who signed the 2007 VSPP contract experienced would be resolved quickly as part of the process of ironing out the wrinkles of the new partner program, the source said.

Verizon executives said the goal for 2007 was to increase the indirect sales of the carrier through its agents by 4.7 percent, the source said. This number is significant, the source said. Verizon in October reported third quarter revenues of over $23 billion, according to Verizon.

The source remains anxious of the yet-to-be quantified quota he will be handed in January. But he said he came out of the Basking Ridge meeting with "a stronger sense of the commitment that [Verizon is] willing to support us."

Signing the VSPP contract was a matter of being able to deliver what customers want, the source said. Many large enterprise customers mandate the procurement of Verizon's offerings in the same way they mandate the procurement of technology products and services from IBM, the source said. Like IBM, Verizon is considered in many enterprise circles as being "the company you can't be fired for hiring," so many legacy MCI partners chose to keep Verizon on their menu, for better or worse, so they could offer Verizon to big accounts looking to buy services from the carrier, the source said.

Several legacy MCI agents who refused to sign the VSPP contract -- and thus were not invited to the Basking Ridge meeting -- said they were happy with the efforts of the "will not sign" coalition. Putting pressure on Verizon to reconsider some of the harsh conditions of 2007 VSPP is paramount because Verizon needs to learn that it needs its legacy MCI agents more than it may realize. Legacy MCI agents have major customer ties outside the Northeast stronghold Verizon has built its core customer base upon, and these customer consume complex services beyond traditional voice services that span IP-based voice and data offerings. Verizon interferes with these traditional MCI-customer relationships at its own risk, sources said.

The coalitions e-mail campaign was distributed by telecommunications marketing firm IAgentNetwork, a San Diego telecommunications marketer. IAgentNetworks representative Shannon McCormack did not return calls for comment.