How we got one person to do the work of three

How we got one person to do the work of three

Three years ago our business was sick. Our customer satisfaction was declining, our productivity was poor, our revenue was shrinking and we knew we had some serious problems to overcome that went beyond the malaise of the economy.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

Our business was not a bad business, it may have even been a good business, but it was not the great business we wanted it to be. We had some key issues and needed to change before our company imploded. I am pleased to say we succeeded with some strategy, some technology and an approach to getting the right people on our team.


Recruitment and outsourcing


So let me highlight some of our issues. We were struggling to hire the right people and the people we were hiring were expensive, so we had elected to hire some offshore resources to reduce the burden. The concept had been to let them provide back office functions, however, they were quickly given duties that included taking in-bound calls to reduce the load on our “overburdened staff”. We had poor reporting on staff productivity and utilisation and poor tracking of delivery against our service level agreements (SLAs) with clients.

The steps we took to overcome these issues started with a review of who we wanted to be as a business, the company values. Clearly we were not meeting our stated objectives around quality of service, integrity, responsibility and so forth.


Staff reviews


We implemented a staff review system using This allowed us to perform three staff reviews each year by setting objectives for the trimester and scoring against those. The objectives were first set for the organisation based on our strategic plan for the year and the focus for the period. Staff were then given training objectives, customer review objectives and so forth against each of our high level objectives. At the end of the trimester the staff did a review with their manager and received a score. The scores slotted in to the company profit share scheme to add incentives to the plan. The total scores added up to our company health index.

With fine-tuning over three or four trimesters this system got better and better. We now had a method of managing performance of the team.


Company values


After an alignment exercise, our management team elected to depart and this created an opportunity to really change. Using careful profiling we selected a new management team and re-built our services delivery team. We also introduced our dashboards that reported on the key metrics for each of our job functions, and in the process, created a gamified help desk where our staff willingly competed to drive better statistics on their call resolution metrics. Initially the dashboard was a marketing tool to show our clients how carefully we monitored their issues, but as we fine-tuned the reports on the dashboard for relevance and importance, the more important they became to motivate our staff to work on the important aspects of service delivery.

The ultimate control mechanism was one that happened as an experiment but became a team focus. With each ticket completed we seek answers to five questions. We typically get one in ten filled out. We ask for scores of 1 to 5 where 1 is completely failed to meet expectations and 5 is went above and beyond. Every time we get scored 3 or below it resets a counter on our dashboard the counter simply tracks “Days since last negative feedback”. We do not state who caused the reset, we do not point fingers or create blame, but somehow people always know who scored the comment. When the days since last negative feedback is a three digit number it becomes a talking point and no one wants to be the person to cause it to reset.  


Three-fold productivity increase


So between solid company values, Work it Online and iDashboards, combined with a whole lot of hard work with a constant focus on team culture, customer service and education, I am pleased to say we turned the company around. We were also able to show statistically that one well managed, well trained, motivated local resource was able to get through three times the number of jobs with a higher level of customer service than an offshore contracted resource.

If more companies in Australia made the effort to put good systems in place, focus on education and company culture perhaps we could get back to investing in Australia and our future as the smart lucky country we should be.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for Business IT that makes sense. How can we help?


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