Two months into his role, Primus Telecom CEO, Tom Mazerski, is 60 per cent of the way into his plan of overhauling the telco’s business.
Mazerski took over from long-time CEO, Ravi Bhatia, in August. Bhatia announced his retirement in July.
Mazerski had predominantly worked for telco monopoly, AT&T, taking on many different roles during his tenure though he later left to start his own telco business.
According to Mazerski, his eclectic telco experience has helped him develop an innate sense of what a telco company should look like.
“I can pretty much go into any company, take a look at it and kind of know what it’s supposed to look like,” he said.
That was what Mazerski did when he joined Primus Telecom.
While he saw the corporate side of the business was in good shape, Mazerski was dissatisfied with Primus’ consumer unit and decided to tackle nagging problems in the Melbourne call centre as a starting point.
“First think I’d do is start with call centres and actually get on the phone, which is kind of unique,” Mazerski said. “How many CEOs actually spend two weeks in a call centre listening to customers?”
He found out many customers were calling in multiple times to fix one problem. Only 30 per cent of customer calls were being resolved over the phone.
This was compounded by disparate IT systems which dragged on the resolution process for staff as they waste time communicating with different departments.
Primus has since worked on consolidating IT systems, providing more visibility and implementing measurement systems to track customer calls. Technicians can now solve customer issues over the phone more efficiently.
“I have rules now – they have to solve more than 90 per cent of customer problems over the phone and the rest will have to be solved within three hours,” Mazerski said. “I want to get it down to one hour but we’re at three hours now.”
In the two months since he became Primus Telecom CEO, Mazerski said his consumer – or mass market – team has improved significantly.
“There are still a couple of things we need to do more of to improve but overall, that is tremendous progress in a short period of time,” he said. “… With the company overall, I think I’m about 60 per cent there but if I move at the pace I’m moving now, this will be done in record time.”
One thing the Primus CEO is most proud of is the fact he didn’t actually have to hire any new staff or throw more money into the business to achieve success.
“The first thing people would say is ‘we need more people and more money’,” Mazerski said. “I’d say ‘give me a chance first’ and every time we end up needing less people – they get reassigned to other places in the company – and less money.”
He thanked his staff for their commitment and willingness to see the changes through.
Mazerski has also brought in a number of incentives to improve staff performance. These include Pizza for call centre teams that have 100 per cent attendance rate on Mondays, which has dramatically reduced absentee numbers, as well as giving out tickets to sports events for teams with the best call resolution rates.
The next thing on his agenda is to work on organisational change.
“I don’t like stacked management and I find in Primus there is just layers of that,” Mazerski said. “I want to push it down so there are less levels of management.”
That way when staff wants to resolve problems for customers, they don’t have to go through a number of senior members to get an answer, he said.
“The good news is I think the heavy lifting for me is pretty much over,” Mazerski said. “Now what I need to do is keep measurements and visibility across the company.”
The Primus CEO has become a vocal critic of the National Broadband Network (NBN) project, claiming the plan to shut off the existing copper network is “a really dumb thing to do”.
He also thought the Government and NBN Co should do more to ensure smaller ISPs like Primus would not be disadvantaged in an NBN environment though telco analysts disagreed with his view.
Catch Tom Mazerski’s profile in the November 16 edition of ARN Magazine under Telco Watch.