Communications in business transformation

A tale of change from a telecommunications leader

In 2015, Globe Telecom stood solidly on top of the Philippine mobile industry, delivering five years of unprecedented growth in revenue and customer base, touting a proposition as the preferred mobile brand and purveyor of the Filipino digital lifestyle.

The pioneer of Short Messaging System (SMS) and GSM Technology in the Philippines convincingly transformed itself into today’s mobile leader in a country where social networking and connectivity is a way of life.

The Globe headquarters, commonly known as The Globe Tower, stands tall in the highly urbanized Bonifacio Global City famous for its elegantly open office spaces and state-of-the-art IT facilities. Behind this modern structural beauty and contemporary façade is an 80-year old company providing wired and wireless services to over 50 million customers. It is one of only two large telecommunications players in the country.

Market shifts caught PH by surprise

Industry players from all over the world share similar stories about shifting trends among customers for data and internet-led services. This has put a lot of pressure on telco core services like voice and SMS resulting to severe price drops and margin compression that led to double-digit decline in profitability. In an industry known for high CAPEX, this was the flashing red light. It was just a question of when the page will turn as people start adopting to the new digital trends.

The “texting capital of the world” comprised of a hugely young population under 35 was caught by surprise when the shift in mobile usage began to be felt in 2008-2009. All of a sudden, the telco cash cow began to bleed, suffering losses in revenue and market share. More importantly, customers were bolder in showing dissatisfaction with their service providers.

Seeing that the industry has reached the point of “pivot or peril”, Globe launched a comprehensive transformation program in 2012 to accelerate efforts in riding the digital age and strengthen its competitiveness in the long term. The program was quite ambitious, covering several areas.

At the forefront was the network built for voice and SMS, which has to be completely changed to 100% 3G/4G and LTE to carry data traffic. It will use the latest technologies making it scalable in order to address the now and future data hungry customers, at the same time bring to life the company’s commitment to superior customer experience as a differentiation anchor.

A powerful network will need a robust back-end system that can be hugely intelligent to address, even predict changing customer behaviors and preferences. Providing customers relevant, personalized products and services may be great but caring for them requires a different set of attitudes and mindset altogether. Thus a culture transformation was included to develop a winning service oriented, customer-centric culture within the organisation.

Relevant and transparent to customers

At the height of the network transformation, Globe took pains to inform its customers all the relevant details about this ambitious project. More importantly, Globe regularly updated customers with milestone achievements about the network that gave customers hope at the end of a “bad service” tunnel. When the network transformation began, 70% of Globe mentions on social were negative. Enterprise customers threatened to take their business somewhere else.

The job of communications was to continuously inform customers of what’s going on with the network transformation. But more than this, communications had to give its most loyal customers the one thing that matters in any relationship - hope. These customers stood by Globe despite the various service interruptions and bad experiences – one of the most difficult periods in the company’s operating history.

From 1-1 engagement using social channels like Twitter and Facebook, hotline and chat, to events and roadshows, Globe used every occasion to talk to customers and keep them informed. A dedicated website was put up to show customers when specific areas will be affected. Infographs and online campaigns were launched to make customers understand the various complexities of the changes that were happening and what the future would look like.

"These customers stood by Globe despite the various service interruptions and bad experiences – one of the most difficult periods in the company’s operating history."

From subscribers and customers to the more localized ka-Globe, every change was a calculated step to involve people into the cause. “Subscribers” came off as a functional and transactional relationship, while “customers” hinted at being more service-oriented. Today’s “ka-Globe” takes it even further, using the prefix from the Tagalog “kapatid” or sibling, and considers every customer as family.  As a result, brand affinity became stronger and Globe was again reconnecting with its customers.

  "From subscribers and customers to the more localized ka-Globe, every change was a calculated step to involve people into the cause."

Pioneering Twitter in the Philippines as a real-time and online customer service medium, Globe invested in social listening as a way to decode digital demands. The organisation embraced social media communication as a determined effort, as well as an active attempt to reinvent the way it reached out to people.

People wouldn’t talk to a cold machine, they conversed with @KenOfGlobe, @NicaOfGlobe, and other people who were just like them. It slowly rebuilt trust and assured each customer that every concern was being attended to.

Also, although Globe may have offered simple solutions as a telco, behind its services were technical concepts that needed to be translated in simple terms for customers to understand. Thus, Globe Enlightens series, a simplified form of educational awareness campaign covering everything from how text messages are sent to why signal reception weakens, was launched in the digital space which provided learning yet entertaining digests that customers responded well to.

Employees come first

The customer-centric service mindset won’t be possible without a strong employee force that rallied towards a new mission and vision. The driving force was a new set of values known internally as The Globe Way which enshrined “We put our Customers First” thinking and practice.

At this point, internal communications was strengthened to make it more engaging and turn each employee into a brand ambassador – credible and knowledgeable about the key transformation initiatives. Internal channels especially the iCON e-newsletter became vehicles in integrating key messages for employees, customers, and other stakeholders.

Town halls and employee kamustahan (loosely translated as "How are you?") at every level of the organisation was happening with clearly defined, aligned messages which kept the leaders in touch with their people.  To support employees, A knowledge management system was put up as references for technical information, jargon, updates and other details.

The culture transformation has began – doing what each one can do for Globe and its customers – extending “malasakit” for the business, living out a service mindset, and practicing transparency in communications.

Measure effectiveness consistently

In any organisation that has undergone massive changes, communications play an important role. And with something as massive as a complete network change out which impacts all key stakeholders; the pressure to do the right thing especially for the customers is tremendous. We were thrilled that Globe was able to find its voice amidst the deafening noise of customer dissatisfaction and negative attacks from all fronts including competition.

By the end of 2012, the company was able to report a year with record revenues; EBITDA margins stayed its course and even a slight increase in Core Net Income. 

    "In any organisation that has undergone massive changes, communications play an important role."

Beyond the financial targets are the sentiment scores; brand love and reputation surveys that the company continues to do regularly even after the worst is over. In fact more metrics were added each year to know how we are doing from the point of view of our customers.

Positive sentiment scores began to resonate as customers felt the changes with the new network. With a winning culture, happy news about working in Globe has spread as the company ranked fourth as Top-of-Mind Employer in the Philippines.

Today, Globe is the mobile brand of choice in the Philippines. The age of mobile data, content and digitisation has pushed forward the company’s commitment to be the purveyor of the Filipino digital lifestyle. With everything going for it, looking forward to exciting times ahead in the next year or two. 

Yolanda Crisanto

Ma. Yolanda C. Crisanto oversees stakeholder relations at Globe Telecom, involving employees through internal communications and culture development, customers, communities, media and government relations. She is also responsible for the company’s corporate social responsibility and sustainability programmes. Prior to joining Globe Telecom in 2009, Yolanda was vice president corporate communications at the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company from 2004 to 2009, and before that she was senior assistant vice president of East West Banking Corporation. In 2013, Yolanda was elected president of Public Relations Society of the Philippines (PRSP) and in 2011 director of the Philippine Association of National Advertisers (PANA).