Here are some strange examples of ways other masters are trying to innovate:
1. Become master agents for hardware vendors (ready to learn how to program voicemail and wait on hold prompts?)
2. Invest in a call center to generate leads to be closed in-house (that's a lot of cold calls and overhead to generate a $250 PRI)
3. Offer energy (seriously, it's going to be huge ... some day)
4. Offer agents cash advances to easy the pain of crossing the desert (we've done that for years, just never published it)
All in all, without access to software, it would be really hard to continue innovating. At our annual agent conference in Las Vegas on March 12, 2011 we'll be unveiling the newest addition to our line of agent support / business expansion software that is sure to make our agents MUCH more money that anything we've come out with to date (including XML plug-ins and Premium web sites)
We've also added sales management staff (Phil Chandler, formerly of XO) to help support our agents like they're red carpet A-list celebrities. Phil is now supporting the northeast, James Knight is over California and the Southwest, Mike is over the midwest and northeast, and Aaron is supporting the south. Robert Bulter was promoted to VP of Sales - West (over James and Phil) and Lance is now VP of Sales - East (over Aaron and Mike). That is a total of six all-stars that work with our agents day in and day out.
Sales support also continues to grow. Under the leadership of Doug Miller, a 12-year veteran of Qwest, we are processing more manual quotes (complex networks), auditing order paperwork for accuracy (cutting days/weeks/months of delays from our customer's install intervals), supporting agents with renewal reminders and product education, and performing weekly audits of GeoQuote to ensure accuracy of both the pricing and the promotions being offered by each carrier. Under Doug is Jessica Martin (recently promoted) and Paula McKinnon - both all-stars in response time, helpfulness, and attention to detail.
Our IT department had a banner 2010 to say the least. In 2010 we deployed own own fully-redundant web and SQL server system in two different Telx facilities. We also deployed an internal email server, witness server, and marketing web server at a colocation facility here in Salt Lake City. All three locations work together to ensure automatic fail-over in the event something, somewhere breaks. Last week we learned first hand that our new system works - our main SQL server had a fan die, which put the machine into self-preservation mode. No worries! The witness server in Utah discovered that our primary system wasn't responding and instantly routed ALL traffic to our backup network. No agents or employees even had a clue that we were in backup mode - all of our sites continued to operate and no data was lost. Once the Telx tech was able to replace the fan and bring the machine back online, everything reverted back to the primary as if nothing had happened. Terrific work IT!
Last but not least, we've spend the better part of 2010 working on two main projects: internal software (Sabiona) to help us better manage agents, specifically individual opportunities that we are working on. Secondly, reprogramming our commission system to handle even more nuances, exceptions, spifs, automatic auditing, and easier importing. With the last upgrade our commission specialist can handle over 5,000 commission entries each month in just 20 hours/week - with lethal accuracy.
It's safe to say, we've come a LONG way in 2010. But if you think we've reached the end of our creativity rope, come on down to our Agent Conference in Las Vegas on March 12, 2011 - and you'll see otherwise!