Self service

Ethos Consultancy built its own application to manage a 2,000-strong team of mystery shoppers. Imthishan Giado reports.

Tags: Ethos ConsultingSMBUnited Arab Emirates
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Self service Shabbir (right): What gives us the edge is our ability to customise and tailor our services and reports for individual clients.
By  Imthishan Giado Published  December 22, 2009 Arabian Computer News Logo

For most small-to-medium size organisations, the choices of IT application are very straightforward.

Look at the off-the-shelf options available within the budget and pick the one with the best reputation within the market. Alternatively (and if it’s not too expensive) get a smaller vendor to customise an existing platform to your needs.

But very few enterprises do what market research specialist Ethos Consultancy did, which was write its own package, Knowledge Track, specifically designed to meet the unique requirements of this niche market. Director of IT and web development Husain Shabbir says was necessary because no existing package could deliver satisfactory results for his management. 

“Ethos Consultancy is a customer service company. What we do for our clients is basically help them improve their customer service by measuring it and then suggesting improvements. We do mystery shopping and surveys. That’s how we assess how they are doing with their customer service. We then improve it by doing training, workshops and so on,” he explains.

Major clients for Ethos include RAKBANK, Dubai Islamic Bank, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Dubai Department of Economic Development and First Gulf Bank. Regardless of the vertical, Shabbir says these firms are united in their demands.

“They want really slick reporting, where they have to do very little work. With Knowledge Track reports, you’ve need to select very few drop down fields. It just allows you to drill down to any level that you want,” he details.

But why build your own application in the first place? Initially, Ethos did use a commercial package, but found several limitations to this approach.

“Most people tend to outsource it or buy in off the shelf. The legacy application that we were using was off the shelf. The problem with these applications is that they’re not customisable and the industry that we are in is very unique. What gives us the edge is our ability to customise and tailor our services for every individual client that we have. What makes Knowledge Track unique is the dashboard and the fact that reporting is customised for every individual client – so no two customers will have the same look,” he states.

Shabbir was the first IT staffer for Ethos when he came on board in 2006 and today commands a team of four dedicated developers. His first job was to automate the scheduling system for the 2,000 mystery shoppers on file.

“We have built a customised mystery shopping application using technologies like Visual Studio and their .NET platforms. That has enabled us to have the entire mystery shopping process completed within 24 hours, which is something that we were not able to do using legacy applications. Entirely web-enabled, it is also accessible by our clients that log into the system, which are able to get real time progress,” he details.

Issues for an operation of this size tend to be relatively straightforward. Wilson Machado, a IT consultant with Ethos says the firm’s current objective is the switch to Windows 7.

“We had problems with Vista until the release of the service packs. The developers have already tested the release candidate and we have been running it for six months now without issues,” he assures.

The Knowledge Track application has now been in operation for two years, and Shabbir reveals that the firm is interested in selling it as a complete package for the research industry: “It is in the pipeline. We’ve got a lot of interest in purchasing this software from the GCC, including inquiries from Oman and Kuwait.

“Our next plans are to provide better and faster reporting. This application also supports

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