It has been nine weeks since we implemented our preparatory measures to respond to the COVID-19 virus spread. Our stated Purpose came to — and has since stayed at — the forefront: we build the digital highways that connect people, improve lives, and support our communities. This Purpose is fueled by our Sangre TIGO — the key values, practices, behaviors, and beliefs that our people uphold every day. Sangre TIGO is the beating heart of our commitment to responsible leadership.
At the start of this crisis, we expected that now — more than ever before — our communities would rely on us to keep them digitally connected while they were forced to be physically apart. At a time when the physical world would be locked down, digital connectivity would become essential… to first responders; to online teachers and students; to home and remote workers; and to distanced families, overburdened hospitals, disrupted businesses and government agencies needing to promptly and widely inform their citizens.
Thus, Phase One of our Response Plan was protective. To keep our employees safe so that we could keep our communities connected.
In late February, we activated our Crisis Management Committees. In every jurisdiction, our action plans were aligned with local health ministries and the WHO. Travel restrictions, work from home arrangements, and a prioritized workforce management plan was put in place early on. All meetings with vendors, partners, and clients shifted to digital-first. Today, over 75% of our workforce is working from home.
Critical functions required to ensure service continuity — such as call centers, network maintenance, and data centers — were secured by instituting separate shifts, deploying enhanced safety protocols, and issuing sanitary and protective gear. And — most importantly — by providing continuous information and a sense of purpose and pride about the critical nature of those roles. Our network, installation, and service crews, as well as our customer service teams, have stayed “in the streets” and remained “on the front line” to ensure continuous connectivity and service. Additional equipment and safety protocols are giving them enhanced protection. But it is our sense of purpose that is giving them motivation and pride. Our campaigns have run a simple message: Our tech and service crews are outside so our TIGO customers can stay home. Sangre TIGO.
We have added capacity to the network, and our technicians and engineers have been working around the clock to face an unprecedented surge in traffic. Connectivity has been continuous and uninterrupted. Sangre TIGO.
Our call centers have all been moved to remote-working locations or implemented safe-distance practices. Some of our stores and points of sale remain open to provide essential customer support. On-line attention has been doubled to take on the additional load. Customer service, although facing limited disruptions, has been continuous and uninterrupted. And quickly turned more digital. Sangre TIGO.
We have made our telecom technology and media capabilities available to governments and communities wherever possible: supporting them in their efforts to keep the public informed and the virus contained. By sending messages on hygiene and social distancing practices; hosting information sites; providing WiFi to critical premises like shelters, quarantine centers, and hospitals; supporting aid distribution to those most affected through our Tigo Money platforms; and evolving our corporate responsibility flagship programs - Conéctate Segur@, Conectadas, and Tigo Comunidades - to enhanced online platforms so that children can continue to learn in a safe online environment, women can continue to be digitally included, and teachers can be provided with the digital skills they need to keep on educating. Sangre TIGO.
And — most importantly — we have pledged to keep all our users connected throughout the crisis. We are providing a new minimum lifeline broadband product to those of our customers who are facing financial difficulties. This crisis will pass; we will be there when it does; and so will our customers. Our opportunity — and our responsibility — is to make sure our customer relationships come out strengthened. Long term value creation. Sangre TIGO.
Nine weeks into this crisis, we are not as tired from the long hours as we are invigorated by the resilience, dedication, and commitment of our teams in every part of this great company. We have seen a thousand TIGO leaders rise up to the challenge and pull together with a single purpose. For TIGO and for our communities. With empathy and understanding. With immediate action and a clear long term view. Our Sangre TIGO at its best.
Today, we remain both concerned and optimistic about what lies ahead. But, mostly, well-prepared for the unknown. The crisis is real and its risks are materializing. But little do we know whether we are at the beginning of its end… or simply at the end of its beginning. Phase Two of our Response Plan is designed to plan accordingly — and responsibly — for this uncertainty.
We do know that our networks will remain at the very core of the contingency plan for thousands of individuals and companies who rely on us to connect them in this time of need. As a result, we are re-allocating all of our capital, both human and financial, to the task of ensuring the integrity of our networks, the quality of our customer care, and the health of our employees.
In Phase Two, we aim to:
- Protect our Customer Relationships and User Base for the long term. This is the role that our lifeline product plays. To sustain and enhance our brand leadership, our market position, and our equity value in the long run.
- Protect our Operating Cash Flow. In anticipation of what could be a severe global recession in 2020, we have suspended all non-essential investment and we have implemented an ambitious cost-savings plan. These measures will preserve our solid cash flow generation and protect our balance sheet strength.
- Protect our Employee Base and Critical Small Business Relationships. At a time when many families worry about their future, we have prioritized supporting employment in both our own workforce and accelerated our usual payment terms for small local businesses. Because we can play our part in keeping the local economy going. But also because we want our teams – construction, service, and sales crews, as well as critical small business partners, to be “there and ready” for when the time to go back to growth comes. As it will.
We can do this because we have built strong businesses and are preserving cash flow and liquidity. We want to do this because we aim to position ourselves for a strong and fast recovery once life returns to its new normal.
And that will be Phase Three. We do not yet know what that the new normal will be. But we have begun thinking and preparing for it. We do know, for now, that it will:
- Bring a New and Strong Digital Wave. With more e-commerce and e-payments; more e-learning and online schooling; more remote working and home offices. All with accelerated needs for our connectivity.
- Require even Stronger Business Continuity Plans. With more prescient needs for secure and guaranteed connectivity; more cloud-based solutions and data center storage and resilience. All with larger demands for our services.
- Rely heavily on robust Next Generation Networks. With high speeds, throughput, and capacity. Needs that our large state of the art networks are uniquely positioned to meet.
- Demand stronger, better capitalized, infrastructure-based Operators. Because the possibility of disruptions to the physical economy has only highlighted the reliance of the growing digital economies on strong, infrastructure-based telecom operators; and the need for the digital highways that are the core of our business strategy.
How we execute Phase Two and how we plan and prepare for Phase Three will determine how well we can respond to our communities and to our investors in a post-COVID-19 world.
We will keep our Purpose as our guiding star. And we will execute, as always, with our Sangre TIGO.
My gratitude goes out to every single one of our 22,000 employees and our Board of Directors for their commitment, guidance, and effort during this time.
Chief Executive Officer
Millicom | TIGO