“The pandemic has opened new possibilities which both consumers and companies may not have previously realized. I believe that this shift towards digital, preference for seamless transactions and purchases, and the increased focus on health and wellness will stick even after the pandemic. It is imperative that our organizations find new and creative ways to adjust our business models and how we touch our consumers”
For Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman of one of the country’s largest conglomerates, adapting to the new standard ushered by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic requires redesigning how the group interacts not just with customers but with stakeholders at large.
Identifying what Zobel calls as the “pain points,” Ayala Group is measuredly evolving the way the group interacts with its community.
The Group is pouring resources towards further digital adoption of its various services for better interaction with customers. This a result of “broad trends about the changing preferences of the Filipino consumer,” according to Zobel.
“Many of our customers have steadily migrated and gotten used to more digital ways to transact, buy products, and access services. Nowhere is this shift most apparent than in financial services, e-commerce, and healthcare,” he said.
Zobel earlier said that as of September last year, 81 percent of transactions at Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) are being done via online channels, up from 71 percent prior to the COVID-19 quarantine.
BPI’s mobile app likewise grew transactions 118 percent while platform enrollments increased 125 percent.
The group’s financial technology business over at GCash at the same time experienced a doubling of users and transactions,and E-commerce through business Zalora has seen transaction volumes all exceeding pre-quarantine levels.
Ayala Malls has unveiled its Ayala Malls Neighborhood Assistant or “Ana,” a virtual channel for food and grocery purchases that can be picked up at the mall or delivered to customers’ homes.
In the healthcare business, unit AC Health has launched HealthNow, an integrated telemedicine platform, in partnership with Globe Telecom’s 917 Ventures offering consultation requests with an active pool of doctors and the procurement of medicines from home.
“The pandemic has opened new possibilities which both consumers and companies may not have previously realized. I believe that this shift towards digital, preference for seamless transactions and purchases, and the increased focus on health and wellness will stick even after the pandemic. It is imperative that our organizations find new and creative ways to adjust our business models and how we touch our consumers,” Zobel said.
While it has long been implemented in the group’s internal processes, “Digital transformation goes beyond just implanting new technologies in our companies. Perhaps more important than having new tools and gadgets is institutionalizing among our employees a mindset of agility, curiosity, experimentation, flexibility, and trust” Zobel said, stressing how this mindset significantly impacts how the group’s various companies operate and work.
Zobel said the group leveraged on a framework it started in mid-2019 to adjust how the group’s employees could work in a post-COVID-19 pandemic environment.
“During the onset of the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), we adopted a structured work-from-home arrangement for majority of our 50,000-plus employees to keep them safe, while leveraging online tools to keep them engaged. Around 38 percent of our total direct workforce continue to work from home as at August 26. We also partnered with online learning platforms, Coursera and Degreed, to provide our employees continued learning and retooling opportunities in both technical skills and special interest topics,” Zobel said.
“Throughout this large-scale experiment of utilizing alternative working arrangements, we realize that work flexibility does not necessarily mean a huge drop in productivity. Perhaps more importantly, we saw an opportunity to reimagine the purpose of the office and actively shape what the future of work will look like,” he added.
Zobel said this led to an outcomes-based evaluation of jobs, and a task-based approach to where work can be done.
“For example, for tasks that require focus and concentration, such as writing and research, perhaps a ‘work where most productive’ approach will be appropriate. Meanwhile social activities, team meetings, townhalls, and tasks that require face-to-face interaction, such as collaborative projects and mentorship, should be done in physical offices,” he said.
Zobel however said reimagining the future of work is just one element of a larger digital transformation journey.
“As it stands, redesigning the relationship between work and the office already requires a high degree of openness, flexibility, and trust. There is a need for balance in these discussions, particularly in taking into consideration different corporate cultures, the nature of roles and functions, as well as government regulation,” he said.
Zobel at the same time said that beyond focusing on customers and employees, they are revisitingthe waythey view who their stakeholders are in the community.
“We may need to broaden our definition of our stakeholder community, particularly by looking at segments that are beyond our shareholders and immediate customers. I believe that only when we expand our horizons to include the broader stakeholder community around our companies can we maintain our organizations’ relevance and create genuine and sustainable value for all,” he said.
For instance, through AC Health’s leadership, the different Ayala group companies pooled resources to convert QualiMed Hospital in Nuvali into a COVID-19 testing and treatment facility — meant to give employees and other stakeholders “the peace of mind that they will be taken cared of should they or their loved ones get sick.”
“In addition, AC Health’s different teams, which include double-degree MBA doctors, were instrumental in creating robust testing and return- to-work protocols. We uploaded these pieces in the company website and shared frameworks in public forums to help other organizations formulate their own procedures to deal with COVID-19 in the workplace,” he said.
“Furthermore, strong peer partnership allowed Project Ugnayan – an initiative of 270 private organizations and individuals – to bridge the immediate needs of the economically vulnerable in the Greater Metro Manila Area at a time when government was realigning budgets. The emergency food packages, grocery vouchers, and medical assistance we provided ultimately helped 2.8 million families or over 14 million individuals. The speed and magnitude of the initiative was unprecedented, with several international observers considering it as a good partnership model that can be applied to other countries during times of calamity,” Zobel added.
“At the end of the day, revisiting our role and renewing our commitment to a broad set of stakeholders is all about building trust and goodwill with a community, which ultimately leads to an institution’s relevance and longevity,” Zobel also said.