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“A classic growth mindset is my default position”: CEO of giffgaff, Ash Schofield

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Wednesday, 28 July 2021. Posted in Scaling up, Interviews

Ash Schofield spoke about how giffgaff customers' needs and demands transformed during the pandemic – and how the team managed to overcome the challenges, bringing outstanding customer satisfaction

“A classic growth mindset is my default position”: CEO of giffgaff, Ash Schofield

Ash Schofield spoke about how giffgaff customers' needs and demands transformed during the pandemic – and how the team managed to overcome the challenges, bringing outstanding customer satisfaction 

“I’m leading the business, so my mindset is inevitably going to permeate through the whole team,” Ash Schofield, CEO of giffgaff told me. “We love to evolve at giffgaff, so a classic growth mindset is the default position. I guess behind that is a willingness to challenge the established way and to believe that change is possible. A sense of challenge and a strong belief that we can make a difference certainly gets me up in the morning.” Ash began his early career days working as a marketing analyst for a distribution company, before switching to the telecoms sector in 1999. He attained roles at BT Cellnet, Genie and O2 before leading the entire marketing team at Tesco Mobile. Six years later, Ash joined giffgaff as Chief Experience Officer and was later appointed as Chief Marketing Officer. Following an outstanding recommendation, Ash was later asked to become CEO of giffgaff, honouring his 13-years of outstanding performance in the telecoms sector. 

“The culture, the ambition, and the challenger mentality at giffgaff made it irresistible,” Ash said, speaking about his role as giffgaff’s CEO. “At that point in my career, I’d been in mobile telecoms for 13 years and giffgaff to me represented the most exciting place in the industry to be. Anyone who’s visited our office can testify there is a buzz about the place that is infectious, and I wanted to be part of it. I was also joining the leadership team, which allowed me to help shape the next chapter of the giffgaff story. It was too good an opportunity to miss.” 

However, the pandemic brought several hurdles into day-to-day operations at giffgaff. The way people used the internet completely changed. Ash and the team had to sit down and analyse the data to understand how their customers were using their services to meet the changing demands, but also had to manage staff members who were now all working from home. With a digital strategy from the beginning, their business plan was to push for “relevance”, revamping their community strategy, pricing approach to channel management and seasonal trends to meet the rising demands from their customer base. “The pandemic offered the classic opportunity to reset, reimage and remake giffgaff to achieve deeper relevance with our audience,” Ash said. “It took us right back to our start-up mentality – but with all the experience of an established company.” 


Despite the changes. it was important for Ash to keep the company culture alive. The giffgaff team replicated aspects of office working at home which saw positive results and habits emerge, and at the same time, this built team bonding. They would continue their Monday morning meetings and used Zoom to host product demos while breaking out into different focus groups. Some colleagues even played musical instruments to bring some much-needed entertainment to the team. Others stepped up to support staff mental well-being and became Mental Health First Aiders. Giffgaff’s sense of unity within its team has translated to its customers, spearheading their mission of community and care for their members, and sought to give back during this challenging time. 

They provided their members with more data with recurring card payments for monthly bundles in an act of “mutual-giving” to meet their rising demands for more mobile and Wi-Fi services. In a spirit of giving, giffgaff members could give free data to their friends or family who couldn’t afford paying for a service during the challenging months. 

“Our goal was to ensure we became more deeply relevant during what was clearly a challenging time for our members,” Ash explained. “In the weeks before lockdown, we’d introduced unlimited minutes on all our goodybags, which catered brilliantly to the new demand for increasing voice calls. But we wanted to go further on value for more data. New ‘golden goodybags’ were launched in response, giving members more data when they switched on recurring card payments for the monthly bundles. It was a classic giffgaff win-win, as we’re all about mutual giving, with members getting more access to data without having to sign a contract, while we attracted members who tended to stay longer. Those members were also even more likely to recommend us with an NPS exceeding our already industry-leading levels. Founded on the principles of community we also wanted to do something to help vulnerable members. So, as well as free rating a bunch of useful sites the team created what we call ‘goodybank’ in a matter of weeks. Essentially it meant our members could join us in donating to Neighbourly (our charity partner) to help those who needed it most during the pandemic and to join us in giving free goodybags to those people requiring connectivity but now simply couldn’t afford it. To make a difference together with our members is just one of the reasons giffgaff is such a unique place to work.” 

With all the obstacles giffgaff faced during the pandemic, they were able to rise above the challenges. Their ‘Net Promoter Score’ (NPS), a customer loyalty and satisfaction measurement, reached 70 in a new milestone for the firm. Giffgaff was also voted Uswitch Network of the year, topped Which magazine’s satisfaction survey and also topped Ofcom’s survey on network provider satisfaction, with 95% of customers satisfied with the provider's value for money – and all three achievements were voted for by customers. 

In a few words of advice to other businesses struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, or those going through a challenging time, Ash said: “It’s time to reconnect with your purpose, really asking, what is it we are here to do? I think great decisions are informed by insight, the values that are important to you and the potential commercial returns you can generate, so in good times or bad never just turn the wheel. Really go after what you want to achieve, address the problem you are trying to solve, find that north star, whatever you want to call it. And if you think you need to pivot, act as quickly as you can, because you’re probably right.” 

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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