Telecom Channel Chiefs On Why Customer Experience Hinges On Putting Partners First

Leaders from AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Masergy, Spectrotel, and Spectrum talk about what separates their companies from the competition and why partners are critical to their growth strategies.

The Gang's All Here

Customer -- and partner -- experience is the name of the game and the key to success, according to six of the most influential communications and telecom channel chiefs and CEOs.

Leaders from AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Masergy, Spectrotel, and Spectrum took to the stage during 2019 Channel Connect, orchestrated by ScanSource-owned Intelisys, to tell an audience of solution providers about what is making their companies stand out from the pack today. The leaders also shared their channel strategies and the importance they are placing on partners moving forward.

Here's what each executive had to say.


Stacey Marx, Senior Vice President and Channel Chief

“By 2020, 75 percent of AT&T's network will be virtualized and that will let us be very agile in the market and flexible with different solutions. Riding that network is fiber, IoT, and 5G. From a customer experience perspective, we are constantly trying to find ways to improve not only the consumer’s experience, but the [partner's] experiences with us.

“The channel gives us reach, as well as intimate relationships with clients. With technology exploding the way it is, everyone coming to the table to work together is a winning combination not only at [the channel chief] level, but we also have supTport at the C-Level for the channel.”


Garrett Gee, Senior Vice President, Indirect

“Customer experience and partner experience is really interchangeable for us at CenturyLink. We are two years into an integration with Level 3, and we are really focusing on ease of doing business. When we talk to partners, it's not about compensation and other levers, it's all about delivering services and making it easy. We have set up employee councils because of partner suggestions and expanded our partner advisory council so we can course-correct faster.

Our network starts at the fiber layer and we are going to continue to invest there. We are adding over 1,000 buildings a month on-net and in some cases, we are doing 4,000-5,000 a quarter, and that's all based on deals that [partners] are bringing us. We're also trying to do things at the edge and bring compute closer to enterprises.”


Craig Schlagbaum, Vice President, Indirect Channels, Comcast Business

“Our focus remains on customer experience. We do an evaluation of [Net Promoter Scores] every single month -- my team looks at it from the channel side as well as the end user side -- that's going to remain a top area for us.

But ultimately, it's really about being the world's best last mile provider coupled with the ability to manage the networks. We put enormous amount of resources both in our field channel team as well as dedicated resources to sell SDN. You can sell comcast over the top completely -- not even selling it with our network, or you can sell it married with our network -- that’s a mammoth change for us, and it's something we are pushing hard-core with our partners. We are winning very large opportunities in that space now.

Since 2011, we've scaled the business to manage the volume that partners have brought us and to be able to give partners the best possible experience with the environment that they have.”


James Parker, CEO

“Our business model is driven by partners. Eighty percent of our bookings and revenue comes from channel. Our focus is on how we [add] simplification into the channel for better execution and then how we create offers that will extend and grow the business with our partners. On the go-to-market side, we had a bit of a re-tooling this year. At one point, we had a direct and indirect channel and we don't have that anymore. Every seller within our organization can work with a partner on any deal across any product we have.

We are also continuing to drive innovation within the portfolio across cloud communications and security and bringing these bundles together to maximize that potential for the partner or seller and increasing that value for our customers. We can have every deal teamed -- there are no restrictions within our business. The journey with our partners and customers through digital transformation -- the sea of opportunity is there and widening and if we can help channel partners be more relevant, and that relevancy comes from training which is a focus of our program, we can really help partners expand their business.”


Ross Artale, President and COO

“We are all about the customer experience. We buy from many of the largest suppliers around the globe and we believe we are the very best in world at providing services and support to enterprise customers. We are 100 percent channel-focused, so all of our sales are coming from agent community. And if we aren't nimble, faster, better than our larger competitors, there're really no value. Five years ago, our business went from 50 to 100 million over that timeframe.”


Michelle Kadlacek, Vice President, Channel Partner Program for Spectrum Enterprise

“We deemed this year as the year of the partner. We've gone through a lot of our acquisitions and systems integrations and really took a step back to ask; “How do we support our partners better than we ever done in the past?” We had our first operational advisory board meeting since the [Charter-Spectrum] acquisition a couple of months ago and we've interviewed with our partners really to identify gaps and areas that we can improve. From a digital transformation standpoint -- not just with our partners but with our customers as well -- How do we take that to the next level? We've got dedicated people in our back office and in the field supporting [partners]. At the end of the day, we are trying to figure out how do we digital transform how we do business with partners to make doing business easier.”