The country’s largest and only integrated telco PLDT and its wireless subsidiary Smart is beefing up its customer support services, in response to a pick up in demand for internet connectivity from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As an integrated telco, we work hard to remain customer-focused across our various business segments – from mobile to fixed to enterprise. We proliferate not just our last mile capabilities, but also our backhaul network to ensure the best CX. And I am very happy to share that for the first time in a long time, all business segments are growing simultaneously,” said PLDT Chief Revenue Officer and Smart President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio.
Although affected by the restrictions due to the pandemic, PLDT and Smart have made adjustments in their work processes and gradually scaled up their ability to build and repair. Network expansion continued despite pandemic conditions. When the quarantine restrictions eased up, manpower began to increase and PLDT-Smart stores reopened to serve more customers.
“Our goal is to keep on challenging how we work so we continue to improve in finding ways to make things easier and more simple for our customers. Our direction is to go digital – thus the drive to enable our customers to do more online: get their bills, pay their bills, get help. This is also a needed shift given the global situation today where customers must stay safe in their homes,” said PLDT-Smart First Vice President and Commercial Operations Head Marco Borlongan.
“Now on general community quarantine, we have been able to slowly reinstate the manpower needed to operate our frontline teams. Most of our stores have re-opened. Our network field teams are tirelessly working to fulfill installation and repair requests. Our call center is now back to serving customers 24 hours a day for repair-related concerns,” Borlongan added.
The new work-and-study-from-home arrangements have increased the volume of calls that PLDT and Smart receive daily. They range from plan upgrades to repairs and billing concerns.
“With most of our customers now working and studying from home, more of them reach out now for help, particularly with plan upgrades, add-on services, or questions about their bills. The number of calls we are receiving has doubled compared to pre-COVID volumes,” PLDT-Smart VP for Consumer Care, Chiqui Abad related.
PLDT-Smart customer support services are now operational, including its call center; the PLDT Smart app which customers may download and use; and myHome, a self-service portal. PLDT and Smart customer care are also available on Facebook and Twitter.
On customers’ issues, Abad explained that the resolution depends on the concern. Product or billing-related queries are generally resolved at point of interaction, while some repair-related concerns may need a technician to be dispatched to resolve the issue and thus may take longer.
She said, “We acknowledge that it has been difficult because of the waiting times in our 171 hotline. PLDT and Smart are reinforcing our resources for customer support to be able to answer all of our customers’ calls.”
“We are working on adding new channels, like an SMS channel, and strengthening our digital channels, so customers can have other ways of reaching us aside from 171,” Abad added.
PLDT’s network service teams have been able to steadily ramp up the Company’s installation capacity to meet the continuously growing demands. By the end of August 2020, available capacity has increased by 8% to 3.78 million ports. Its fiber infrastructure – the most extensive in the country – has expanded to 382,500 kilometers, up 19% from end 2019.
According to Panlilio, “Most definitely, the foundations that strongly fuel our engines remain – the best network and being the only integrated telco in the country. To serve the broadband needs of all Filipinos, PLDT-Smart leads the way in technology integration by offering all types of broadband technologies that cater to any market segment.”
Responding to the increased demand for digital connectivity, PLDT has increased its capital expenditures to P70 billion for 2020, on top of the P260 billion total capex spent in the last five years.
These investments cover the different components of the digital infrastructure ecosystem. It includes the ongoing modernization programs for PLDT’s overseas cable systems and its domestic fiber network. This also covers ePLDT’s network of data centers that provide vital support to, and raises the quality and resiliency of, internet and digital services in the country.