Just over one year ago, the world came to a halt due to the pandemic. What did this mean for a company that focuses on connecting businesses and people worldwide through advanced telecommunications? Michel Verwaerde, Country Manager at GTT Belux, explains.
What happened at GTT during the first few weeks of the pandemic?
The safety of our colleagues was and remains the most important thing, and it is of course essential for being able to continue services to our clients. We acted in the early stages of the outbreak and immediately implemented our business continuity plan, which was already prepared and tested prior to the pandemic, ensuring speedy and efficient execution. The first thing we did was to send our technical staff home to ensure their safety. We knew they would be indispensable in helping our customers make the shift to working from home. The next step was to assure the network performance and security for our customers’ collaboration tools, to enable them to work remotely in a productive and secure manner. It was all hands on deck to support our customers in the right way.
How did you adapt your work to face the challenges?
The speed of the pandemic was different country to country and therefore everyone had to act flexibly depending on the local situation. There was a lot of uncertainty, and we closely monitored national and regional announcements on changes to pandemic restrictions. It was vitally important to keep internal communication channels open across different departments. We made sure to quickly establish new check-ins across teams. As challenges arose, this helped us be as agile and responsive as possible for our customers, partners and suppliers.
The whole world went digital. How did this influence GTT?
Digital ways of communicating from home, such as using videoconferencing and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, are generally bandwidth intensive. As the operator of one of the world’s largest internet backbones, we observed a 30 percent increase in internet bandwidth use in just one month – typically an increase you would see over a full year! This required close coordination between us and other Tier 1 internet service providers to ensure the increasing network capacity requirements were met across the world.
In what way did this affect your existing plans for 2020?
We fully concentrated on supporting our customers. We worked where possible to proactively reach out to clients to discuss any potential issues we could identify that they might be facing. Businesses had to change their operations to adapt to new pandemic constrained work environments. The changing requirements of our customers caused us to intensify our focus on flexible networking solutions, digital collaboration tools and secure VPN connectivity.
How did you manage to address these challenges?
It was a team effort across the entire company, so collaboration was a critical element for managing through the more challenging business environment.
The pandemic impacted each and every one of us on both a personal and professional level. It was also important to keep employee morale in mind during this challenging time.
One example of a program implemented at GTT, which was started before the pandemic, was the Happy Coaches program which focuses on cross-departmental collaboration and employee well-being. We strongly believe that happy people perform better and therefore improve customer experience. The coaches organize a wide variety of internal events that turned into digital ones in 2020. They also added some new initiatives, including one that is well-known within the AmCham community: a chocolate and beer tasting event.
I very much appreciate working with my colleagues, who are engaged and focused. It is only possible with real teamwork to have a 360-degree view of the customer and provide the best services possible.
About the interviewee
Michel Verwaerde heads the Belgian and Luxemburg entity for GTT Communications as Country Manager. He is also a Board Member of the ADM “Share & Connect” community and Assessor “Management & HRM” for the top functions of the Belgium Government. He has a track record throughout his 29-year career of growing businesses sustainably, ethically and with a strong focus on the customer.