Qwest workers called on to sell in race for customers
By Beth Potter, Staff Writer
Monday, March 27, 2006
At Qwest, the company's almost 40,000 workers may end up
going far beyond the company's "Spirit of Service" motto in
In a battle for market share, the Denver-based telephone
company is calling on all workers -- from repair technicians
to receptionists -- to sell its high-speed Internet, phone
and TV service.
The marketing push is driven by Qwest's loss of more than
780,000 phone lines in 2005. That represents a drop of
about 5 percent of its land-line customers across its
14-state region, according to a company filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission.
It also has trimmed about 6,700 workers in the past three
years, about 2,600 in Colorado.
Chuck Ward, Qwest's Colorado president, pushed the
unorthodox marketing plan in a pep talk to about 20 repair
technicians and engineers at a company garage in Loveland
one recent morning.
"We've got to figure out what will get a customer to call
Qwest before they call Comcast," Ward said, pacing back and
forth in front of a fleet of parked Qwest repair trucks.
"If they call us first, we have a better chance of getting
Qwest worker Dave Sullivan told Ward that he had gotten a
customer to request Qwest high-speed Internet when the
customer moved to Loveland. But when the customer applied
for the service, he was told it wasn't available.
But Qwest had misinformed the customer because the service
is available in Loveland, Ward said, shaking his head.
"It's very frustrating losing a customer because of an
information problem," Ward said.
Ward and Mike Labate, Qwest consumer market group project
manager, handed out "door hanger" fliers to workers who can
volunteer to pass out the fliers during off-duty hours.
Qwest workers who refer new customers to the company get a
modest fee, said Qwest spokesman Michael Dunne.
Ward and Labate said they'll financially support any
reasonable marketing idea from employees, from hot-dog
stands to sales pitches at grocery stores.
While the "all employee" marketing program has been around
since 2002, Ward has traveled the state in recent months to
get workers motivated.
Ward calls himself a "cheerleader" for Qwest's Colorado
operations since being promoted in November. Since 2000,
Ward had worked on corporate and legislative policy at
His predecessors as Qwest Colorado president spent most of
their time lobbying at the Public Utilities Commission and
the state legislature, Dunne said.
"If we do well, we all win. If we don't do well ... I'll be
called into Dick's office," Ward said, referring to Qwest
chief executive Richard Notebaert.
What Ward left unsaid is that cable company Comcast recently
unveiled its "Digital Voice" Internet phone service in
Colorado. Philadelphia-based Comcast has about 700,000
cable-TV customers in Colorado.
Comcast does not have an employee referral program, said
spokeswoman Cindy Parsons.
Qwest generated $50 million last year from the nonsales-employee
signups across its region, Dunne said.
Verizon recently started using a similar all-employee
strategy to battle cable companies for TV subscribers in
Texas, said spokesman Bill Kula. Since December, Verizon
groups who canvass neighborhoods in Texas have raised
company revenue up to 40 percent in some spots, Kula said.
"It has morphed into almost a religious experience, where
employees feel so excited about the opportunity to compete
with cable companies," Kula said.
In Colorado, Qwest harnesses similar employee energy by
asking workers to post marketing suggestions and tips about
competitors' strategies on its www.winQwest.com website,
But no matter how hard workers try to sell Qwest's
high-speed Internet or long-distance, most new customers
want cellphones, said Gary Baugh, another Loveland
technician. Qwest resells Sprint cellphone service on its
own branded phones.
"My brother-in-law in Monument surfs the Web from his laptop
connected to the cellphone," Baugh said. "I couldn't
believe it. It's really convenient."
Staff writer Beth Potter
can be reached at 303-820-1503 or