It has been 10 years of highs and lows for telecommunications company Dodo, CEO Larry Kestelman said today, stating that the company has learned from its mistakes, and that he still has a passion for the business.
Larry Kestelman (Credit: Dodo)
Speaking at a lunch celebrating the 10th anniversary of when the company was started as a dial-up internet provider back on 15 October 2001, Kestelman admitted that there had been no textbook around to learn how to be a telecommunications company, and that the company had come a long way in 10 years.
After launching as a dial-up company, Dodo soon expanded into mobile offerings in July 2004, reselling services from Vodafone (and now Optus). In 2005, Dodo launched unlimited broadband services, and since then has diversified into home security, as well as electricity services in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The company plans to launch into gas services by the end of 2011 as part of Kestelman's vision for Dodo to be the "one-stop shop" for services in the home.
While Dodo has grown to service approximately 320,000 households across Australia with 900 staff globally, Kestelman admitted that Dodo has learned from its mistakes over the years.
"It's something you have to learn yourself on your own mistakes," he said, referring to a time in 2007 when Dodo topped the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman list of telco complaints from consumers. Kestelman said that although he had tried to recruit more local call centre staff to handle the call volume, outsourcing to Manila, Philippines, has worked for the company.
"It was a very, very dark nine months of us learning what it takes to run a call centre," he said. "We had 400 people in Melbourne, we tried to recruit more staff unsuccessfully, and that's where we made the decision that if we are going to be here for the long term and we realised what a telecommunications business is all about.
"Today, we have probably 20 per cent of staff in Australia. 80 per cent of staff in Manila from a call centre point of view," he added.
Kestelman said that telecommunications proved to be more about customer service.
"It's not about the blinking lights and how many servers you have. For a consumer, that doesn't matter. It's all about service, systems, processes and their experiences with dealing with you," he said.
Although 80 per cent of call centre staff are based out of Australia, on the whole, Kestelman said that 80 per cent of the company is located in Australia, with dedicated resources for IT and a software development team specifically focused on billing systems.
Dodo also invested over $5 million in moving from Samsung-based call centre tech to a Cisco platform that is controlled out of Australia. Kestelman said that customer service has improved with an average wait time of less than two minutes now. He said that complaints were down, but indicated that Dodo's own branding may work against it at times.
"Our customer service is improving if you accept that we have more than our fair share of difficult customers, because we are accepted as a very obvious choice for a novice user," he said.
As the National Broadband Network (NBN) rolls out, the future of the telecommunications industry, Kestelman said, would be for telcos to move away from being just an internet service provider (ISP) to offering a number of different services.
"If anybody thinks that there is a business such as an ISP, they are kidding themselves," he said.