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Best TPO from a Developing Country

  • KOTRAThe Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) won the Award for the "Best of the Best" TPO for 2004. KOTRA also won the Best TPO from a Developing Country.


    In 2000 and 2001 KOTRA received the worst scores for customer satisfaction among all Korea public enterprises. Mounting complaints from customers even led to doubts that KOTRA was worth taxpayers' money. It faced extinction.

    KOTRA sought recognition for its transition from a supplier driven organisation to one which was focussed on and whose performance was measured by the satisfaction of its company customers.

    Starting in 2002, the management of KOTRA made fundamental changes in the approach of the organisation, its IT systems and the approach by its staff. This change can be summed up as follows.

    Customer focus

    All aspects of administration and management of the organisation were changed in order to centre on customers.

    Customer relationship management

    A new CRM system was introduced that was linked to an IT system enabling individual customers to tailor their requests to KOTRA and to direct them to individual parts of KOTRA. It fundamentally changed the way customers requests were handled and services delivered.

    The CRM system allowed customers to request services directly from KOTRA’s overseas branches via an interactive web page; they no longer needed to pass through headquarters. Information requests could be tailored by country, industry and business type, and the system would recover information which met the requested profile input by any of KOTRA’s 103 branches around the world. Where customers applied for tailored services, a workflow system, which customers could access, recorded the current state of progress in meeting their request. The change resulted in a reduction in the number of staff at KOTRA’s headquarters.

    Evaluation of KOTRA's performance

    KOTRA introduced a Balanced Scorecard (BSC) approach to measure the performance of individual units and staff worldwide based on customer achievements and satisfaction. The system was designed to reflect customer achievements. The performance of overseas branches was evaluated based on the number of customers served, the amount of trade contracts successfully signed and the number of customer requests met. After each service had been provided, customers were asked by an automatic email system to register their degree of satisfaction. The system was set up in such a way that this degree of customer satisfaction could be attributed not only to the unit but also to individual members of staff. The service history of a customer or a unit, recorded in the CRM system, was imported into the BSC where it was interpreted according to the evaluation rules and the results fed back to both HQ management and to the individual offices.

    Staff remuneration

    The remuneration of staff was tied to an evaluation of their performance based on customer satisfaction. KOTRA created an Integrated Human Resource Management system (IHRM) that accumulated all information regarding employee results and their personnel records. 
    Through the system, HQ management had easy access to all employees' work histories and the performance results at each unit. This enabled management to take more factually based decisions on the remuneration and non-financial rewards provided to employees. An annual incentive of 250% of monthly salary was allocated to employees according to the evaluation of their performance. The annual salaries themselves were also determined by their performance evaluation result.


    Top ranking

    The outcome of the changes was remarkable. KOTRA’s customer satisfaction index rose from 56 out of 100 in 2000 to 80 out of 100 in 2003. The latter resulted in KOTRA achieving the second highest score among all public enterprises in the Republic of Korea.

    Increased coverage

    In 2000 the number of customers serviced by KOTRA was 7,000. This doubled to 14,000 by 2003.

    Innovation leader

    In 2003 KOTRA was recognised as being an organisation leading the innovation of public enterprises. It was nominated 'Excellent Innovation Leader' among 202 public enterprises in Korea by the Ministry of Budget and Planning.

    Employee attitude

    KOTRA is more focused on helping customers in challenging markets and the attitude of its employees has greatly changed. While some were initially reluctant to adopt the new approach, when they found that they were measured and rewarded by their performance, which was tied to customer achievements, they began to prefer the greater opportunities to service customers. This led to more staff wishing to work in field offices rather than in headquarters and in markets, like Vietnam and China, that create more customer interest rather than in markets such as North West Europe. This is despite the fact that working conditions in Vietnam and China may be less congenial than those in Western Europe.

    KOTRA as a Model

    KOTRA concluded that it was not enough for a TPO to declare simply that it was customer focussed or oriented. It must put in place the necessary systems to measure this and to reward employees according to the satisfaction of customers. For KOTRA, not only must there be customer-orientated management but also the whole organisation system must run fluidly to make change happen.


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