Puerto Rico Telephone Company on positive track six months after privatization; president Jon Slater reports success with new management team, more efficient organization.

SAN JUAN--The Puerto Rico Telephone Company has successfully implemented process improvements, designed a flatter organizational structure and is on target for completion of goals set in March when a GTE-led consortium acquired a controlling stake of PRTC.

"Six months ago, we embarked on an incredible journey to create a new beginning at PRTC," said Jon Slater, PRTC president. "I am pleased to report that, not only are we on track for our overall operational goals, but we have exceeded many of our expectations."

Specifically, Slater said, one of the PRTC's priorities is to become a customer-driven, market-oriented organization. Supporting that priority in the area of performance and process improvements, PRTC has achieved a 22 percent reduction in service orders, a 78 percent reduction in backlog trouble reports and a 34 percent increase in installations within 10 days.

In addition, PRTC completed the installation of 2,000 "smart" pay phones, a comprehensive cable maintenance program and a "single ticket dispatch program," which prioritizes service requests and repair reports.

Waiting time for operator services has been reduced 43 percent, waiting time for information services has declined 30 percent, answers to 8-1-1 customer service calls have increased 36 percent and answers to 6-1-1 repair service have increased 20 percent. And there has been a dramatic 65 percent reduction in pending complaints in PRTC's customer service department.

"We've made enormous strides in a very short amount of time," Slater said. "However, these accomplishments could not have occurred without the dedicated service of each of our employees. We have been committed from the beginning to building a winning team, and we are doing just that."

Slater said the reduction in the number of management levels puts the employee closer to the customer. He also noted September's early retirement offering as a key in creating a leaner, more efficient organization.

"Not only have we kept our word that there will be no involuntary separations," Slater said, "but we have been able to offer generous benefits packages to those employees who have served us so well. Employees are understanding the need for change, and the experience has been very positive."

Slater also added three new vice presidents to his management team: Ileana Molina de Bachman, vice president of corporate communications; Frank Gatto, vice president of finance and Cristina Lambert, vice president of network services.

In the area of infrastructure investment, PRTC committed in 1998 to invest $1 billion over the next five years. Based on where the company is today, PRTC is well on its way to meeting its 1999 commitment of $224 million.

Finally, Slater said he is proud of PRTC's involvement in the community and the extent to which its employees heed the call to help one another through volunteerism and other grass-roots efforts. The company sponsored "Casas Para Mi Pueblo" in April to help Hurricane Georges victims rebuild homes. It also has contributed to various educational institutions on the island.

"As a company, as an employee team and as a community, we have made tremendous progress in the last six months," Slater said. "We have a long journey ahead and, as I've said before, change takes time. But if we continue our focus and commitment to being the best telecommunications company in the industry, there is no end to what we can accomplish."

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