How Beeline is Dealing with the Impact of COVID-19

Companies country- and worldwide are struggling to cope with the spread of COVID-19, from protecting their staff to keeping their clients happy, supplied and comfortable. With those challenges in mind, GEORGIA TODAY sat down with Andrzej Malinowski, Chief Executive Officer at Veon Georgia, to find out how one telecommunications company has been dealing with the crisis.

How did the reality at Beeline change with the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country?

If we look at the company as at a living thing, which in fact it is, I would emphasize two aspects of the change: the spirit of our company is digital, so it was not much of a change in this regard when we decided to take our work home, as we’ve been working from any convenient location for a long time now, while the body of our company, in the sense of the teams working in all our locations: head office, corporate sales office, call center, data center, retail network, was really comfortably located in these offices. With pandemic spread it was the soul, this digital part of our way of work, that played a dominant role. We decided to switch to fully remote work at the early stage of the outbreak, and thanks to that amazingly fast execution, absolutely every single Beeline employee who can work from home was transferred to remote work. I would like to underline one really important matter though: our industry requires some of our team members to work outside (not from home, not from the office) no matter what. Network maintenance has to be managed “hands on” by our engineers. Those colleagues of ours are unsung heroes of the pandemic and I would like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation and respect. We’ve been doing everything we can to keep them safe as they do their jobs.

How did Beeline respond to the prevention of the spread?

The most important part was to implement measures to protect our team: ultimately, we moved all our people to remote work. As long as the stores were open, all the necessary equipment was provided to our retail teams across the country to minimize the risk for them and for our customers visiting the stores. Now, with stores closed, we encourage our customers to stay home and use our digital channels – the MyBeeline application with more than 1 million downloads is in fact our store inside the phone. Our customers have all the services at their fingertips. Moreover, using the MyBeeline app gives our customers access to products available inside the application only. The same with our most recently completely redesigned website. In other words, Beeline customers don’t even have to go to street terminals to pay for services: everything can be done from the app. Our application even works when the phone is offline and when there is no money on the balance. Some of the other popular applications, of banks for instance, are also “zero rated” so our customers can use those without internet consumption. It’s our way of saying: stay home, stay safe.

What are some of the initiatives you are supporting both with your everyday activities and outside the usual business?

After numerous countries declared a lockdown of their airspace, many of our customers got stuck abroad with limited chance of communication with loved ones back home. Within hours, already working from home, our business operations team and roaming specialists created free internet packages for those subscribers, so they could stay in touch. As a foreigner living in Georgia and having my entire family in Poland, these kind of actions really appeal to me on a personal level, but what matters most is that we were the first to reach out to our customers with help. It made me really proud to see how we’ve reacted. We made governmental hotlines toll free for our customers: we know how important it is to have quick access to credible information, so calling COVID hotlines is free for Beeline customers. We all share our admiration for the Georgian medical personnel, the true heroes of the pandemic, and we were searching for a way to support them in the most direct way possible: to identify an actual problem those extremely hard working people face, and solve it. It turned out that with public transportation restrictions, many of the medical personnel struggled to make it to their place of work – hospitals and other medical facilities. We promptly contacted a transportation company and arranged minivans to pick up nurses from their homes and transport them to the hospital and back home after work. It’s a small way to express our appreciation to the medical community.

What do you think is the role of telecommunications during this crisis?

Connectivity is the name of our business: telecom companies keep people connected. Our key role is to do everything we possibly can to ensure connectivity, and we are determined to do so.

Is there anything that the crisis has taught you so far? Some notable observations?

On a personal level, I think the biggest lesson is how weak we humans are versus nature, but on a more positive note: how much we can achieve as a society when the actions are smart, well planned, well-coordinated and well-executed. I’m impressed with the discipline of the vast majority of Georgians and with the way this enormous crisis was approached by the respective authorities. From a professional perspective, I’m proud of each and every one of my teammates: we continue serving our customers in times of massive challenge, we’ve been doing this from day one of the outbreak and we will not stop until we are back to normal. Last but definitely not least, I’m really happy to know the vast majority of the Beeline team is not exposed to risk, because of their work: whoever can work from home, works from home. Those staying at home and not working have a lot possibilities to grow their skills, and our online learning platform SaVVy is accessible from any location and I’m glad to see many of my colleagues using it. We will survive this and come back stronger.

09 April 2020 16:51