How businesses can continue operations despite Covid-19

The COVID-19 crisis exposed major vulnerabilities in global operations and supply chains. But dtac was able to quickly localize production and implement a wide-reaching work from home policy.

Tipayarat Kaewsringam, chief sales officer at dtac, spoke at the dtac Responsible Business Virtual Forum 2021, to explain how dtac achieved such resilience in its supply chain.

“Digital connectivity is critical to continuing social and economic activity under lockdown restrictions and work-from-home policies. Thus dtac must provide uninterrupted services, but also ensure the safety of its employees and those who operate on behalf of the company,” she said.

Resilient Operations

Today, around 95 percent of dtac office employees and call center agents are able to work from home. Working from home allows them to operate during lockdowns but also reduces the risk of infections which could cause teams to be quarantined.

“Even in shops, which must continue to operate as mobile operators are considered an essential service, teams are split in half and work alternate weeks. If one team is exposed and must quarantine, the other team can continue to operate,” said Ms. Tipayarat.

Moreover, the Network Operation Center, located at the dtac Headquarters, is ready to relocate at alternate sites. In the case of an extreme lockdown affecting all dtac offices, it can even be operated virtually. This is due to a full overhaul of dtac’s IT architecture, making it cloud-based and fully secure.

“All of this would have been very difficult two or three years ago. But today, we’ve completely rethought our way of work,” she said.

Reaching People Where They Are

dtac also adopted a regionalization strategy to continue serving customers during the massive human migration triggered by successive lockdowns. As customers moved from Bangkok to the provinces, data traffic dipped in city centers and grew rapidly in rural areas.

To ensure they could still find SIM cards and cash cards, a depot was set up in each province to reduce cross-province travel for salespersons. Distribution and retail points were reinvented, shifting to a proximity model in gas stations and small markets. And SIM card production, previously offshored, was brought back to Thailand.

The Digital Factor

Digital channels are the most reliable and secure way to ensure uninterrupted services during a lockdown. dtac One, which 90 percent of dtac’s partners use, allows them to complete refill and registration operations on their own. Likewise, dtac app downloads doubled among prepaid users, allowing them to manage their account without visiting a shop.

Today, every dtac Hall can also drive sales through “social commerce”, whereby salespersons continue serving their local communications via Live Facebook sessions and deliver products to their customers’ homes directly.

“Mobile connectivity is critical for the survival of all our customers, so we’re very proud that we play a part of helping customers become more resilient in the face of the rapid changes triggered by Covid-19,” Ms. Tipayarat said.

Human Rights Matter

dtac believes that promoting human rights within its supply chain makes the organization more resilient. It has identified two major aspects to human rights in the telecom supply chain. One is health and safety for employees and contractors, the other is the data privacy and data protection rights of dtac’s customers. dtac is working to ensure both its employees and suppliers follow these standards.

“For health and safety, our target is zero accidents and fatal injuries at work. And in the face of the pandemic, dtac has enforced hygiene and social distancing measures at work as well as educate our employees on the risks they face outside of the shops,” she said.

Moreover, dtac has 80 people working at heights for the operation of its network towers every day. The company has very strict standards for their equipment and conduct regular training and inspections to ensure they are correctly applied.

“We also ensure all our suppliers’ workers are well treated, meaning they are not children or illegal migrants, they have channels to report abuse, and they are paid a legal wage,” the chief sales officer added.

Another issue dtac focuses on is customers’ privacy. dtac has adopted principles which mirror the GDPR framework in Europe setting high standards for data protection. And even though Thailand’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) has been delayed again due to the pandemic, dtac continuously improves its handling of customers’ data.

“We believe that supply chain resilience is critical for maintaining a competitive business, reducing reputational risks, and achieving sustainable growth,” Ms. Tipayarat said.