Flow TT has been making strides and pivoting its work model and services, according to vice president Simone Martin-Sulgan, to operate in the covid19 pandemic.
Flow TT falls under telecommunications giant C&W Communications (C&W) which operates in 19 territories in the region, offering residential and business services for internet, telephone (fixed and mobile) and television.
Martin-Sulgan said while the company was no way an ideal one, it was making the necessary adjustments to become the premier telecommunications provider.
She said the pandemic has shown the company’s shortcomings and it has taken steps to embrace the concept of virtual work for its employees and to make it easier for its customers as well.
“For us it has been a learning experience. If covid19 did not happen we probably would not have seen the areas that we needed to improve.
“We know there have been areas where we have fallen short and with customers' expectations. The proactive maintenance, plans and networks continues on a daily basis.
“What we have not been good at is notifying customers’ of when there is an outage and the work we are doing. But we are changing that through updates on Facebook and other platforms.”
Martin-Sulgan said dealing with customers is not as simple as some people think it is. She explained each customer would have experienced issues that were unique to them, and Flow TT was trying to address it as such.
“It is technology, and it is going to be intermittent from time to time. With regard to outages which occur because of something structural like a fiber cut, the first thing we look at is duration and if it is more than a day then financial compensation has to happen.
“The added limitation of working within a curfew has also hampered our operations but as an essential service we have been trying our best to work as fast and efficient as possible.”
She said with outages that they can control the company acknowledges fault and has been issuing rebates which can be accessed through their retail offices and online platforms.
Flow TT, Sulgan-Martin said, has found that customers needed to be aware of the type of bandwidth purchases that match their usage.
She advised that large usage requires more bandwidth and customers should be mindful of this so they would not run into connectivity issues.
Much of today’s world depended on connectivity, from a casual conversation to Microsoft teams meetings to research for homework, she said.
“People want to be connected and they want to progress in their personal situation and it is why I find our (Flow) space much more meaningful.
“None of our packages that we sell today offer less than 100 megabytes because this is where you can comfortably be streaming and accessing the internet without issues.
“We are mindful of the financial challenges people face and we are providing the necessary information on how the packages work and also offer payment plans.”
She said they have shifted focus to the retention of customers rather than a strong drive of sales and acquisition for the business model at this time.
Martin-Sulgan said the company, like many others, has experienced financial and operating losses because of the covid19 pandemic.
“As with all business targets that are set out. When you introduce measures that affect the way you do business, the plans are changed.
“We’ve been in lockdown so long; we have to figure out how to operate and I think that we are well placed in this new normal, but to say that we are where we are expected to be, I don’t think we’ve been given that luxury.”
She said despite the setback Flow TT has not laid off any staff members but has restructured its work model to include working from home and staff rotation.
The company has placed emphasis on its staff in ensuring that they were taken care of because human capital was the basis for their operations, she said.
“We have the affordability challenge and the restriction of movement because we are not operating under normal circumstances.
“It's 18 months on and some people have not had an income and businesses have been closing down and some are our customers. We have all seen the economic challenges and we (Flow TT) are not immune to it.”
Martin-Sulgan explained the company was mindful of the risk to workers, especially those who are on the frontline, and have implemented a mechanism called the 4Rs to assist them. She said the company supported the covid19 vaccination drives but also supported voluntary vaccinations.
“The first R is to recognise the risk that the workers are faced with every day. It is an online programme where we highlight the good job that they do and there are some financial benefits for them to keep morale up.
“The second R is rotating to avoid burnout. We give staff the opportunity to try different roles. The third R is about rest. It is flexible and does not limit staff to 15 or 20 days. Staff needed time and working from home often meant longer working hours. Martin-Sulgan said it was a policy based on trust and applies to all staff across the board.
“The last R is recharge. It is imperative that you take self-care, whatever it looks like. The pandemic has been playing on our mental health and we have made EAP services available.”
Martin-Sulgan added that Flow TT has also started a covid19 fund to assist its staff who have fallen into financial difficulties because of the pandemic.
Flow TT has also been working with the Ministry of Digital Transformation, and other ministries with its shift towards digitalisation and while Martin-Sulgan did not give details about the partnership, she said Flow TT was on standby and ready to assist.
“We have been donating laptops through the Adopt A School programme and donating devices elsewhere as part of our effort to break the digital divide. It's a digital divide on different levels from access to literacy.”
First woman to hold VP post at Flow TT
Martin-Sulgan is the first woman to hold the position as vice president at Flow TT, with over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications industry.
She worked across the Caribbean, holding senior management positions in Trinidad and Tobago, the Cayman Islands, and the Southern Caribbean and has an MBA and MSc in international business development and consulting which were attained in Germany and France, respectively.
In 2014 Martin-Sulgan worked with C&W as the vice president of mobile operations for the Bahamas Telecommunications Co and as senior commercial director of the South Caribbean, which included TT, Barbados, the Dutch Caribbean, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Dominica.
As a business executive, wife, mother of two, sister, and daughter, Martin-Sulgan said the workload can be tough at times but having supportive family and employers made the job easier.
“I really like what the C&W family stood for, it was about finding balance and finding the medium between work and self. The reception from C&W about wanting to move back to TT was embracing, especially to a virtual approach to working.
“Back at home my portfolio expanded and there was also a recent appointment. I run it with my tribe (family) first in which I would now have a public role. Discussing with them before making and accepting the post was touching because they knew their roles and the roles I had as a mother and professional. They allowed me to step up and do it.”
She said every professional had different roles in life that should be embraced even more so now.
“This is everybody’s reality right now, being professional, taking care of the baby and having more than one responsibility.”
Martin-Sulgan said having a supportive network — work and otherwise was important.
“As a professional woman, your personal situation does not define you. So don’t think you cannot go to the meeting or limit yourself. I see this position as empowering, and women should look beyond their personal situation.”