Boulogne-Billancourt, 13 May 2020. It’s nine-thirty in the morning, and a line is forming in front of the Bouygues Telecom store on Avenue Jean-Jaurès. Its doors will not open for another half hour, but the first customers are already here. Lines have been spray-painted on the sidewalk to indicate the safe distance they must stay from each other. Inside, store manager Rodolphe Flament briefs his team, stressing the need to wear a mask, maintain a safe distance from others, clean their workstations, and disinfect articles handled by customers. Everyone’s safety is the top priority. He also reminds them that “a smile is easily visible behind the mask.”
Designated an “essential business” in the government’s 16 March decree, telephone stores could remain open during the first lockdown period. Nevertheless, to protect the health of store staff and customers alike, Bouygues Telecom decided to keep its stores closed until PPE was delivered. Personnel took advantage of this time to entirely rethink the organisation of store space, both out front and in the back.
Back in practice
At the end of April, the teams returned to the stores to reorganize their layout, receive training in social distancing, and get used to selling again. “The job is fairly technical, and after such a long interruption, it was necessary to get back into practice, like an athlete returning to competition,” explains Frédéric, a sales advisor.
A Welcome Manager lets people in one by one, as the store can accommodate only one customer per salesperson. Arrows on the floor indicate the one-way path through the store. In addition to greeting and advising customers, the Welcome Manager is responsible for seeing that health rules are applied and respected. Each customer is asked to clean their hands with the hand sanitizer provided and are then asked why they are there in order to guide them.
“Having customers wait outside, asking them to come into the store one by one and keep a certain distance from everyone else... it all seems contrary to the very nature of our business, which is selling things. But we are getting used to it!”, says Muriel Mertz, Sales director for the Bouygues Telecom Club store network (RCBT).
The reopening of the stores on May 11 attracted a lot of customers. “We weren’t expecting to see so many people,” comments Hélène Mas, the RCBT regional head for two areas near Paris. She thinks the explanation for all the business is people’s desire to use new online services because of the separation brought by the lockdown.
“Many customers want to adapt their equipment to take advantage of such services,” she says. “And many of them also realized the importance of having a fibre and a good connection during this period.”
SALES ADVISORS LOOK BACK AT THE FIRST LOCKDOWN
Bouygues Telecom’s customer advisors remained on war footing throughout the entire lockdown. From 31 March, the department functioned at a normal level, with heavy reliance on people working from home and minimal staff on site. Working hours were reduced, but with the customer space on the website still available, Bouygues Telecom was able to fulfil its service mission, which was deemed essential.
“Immediately after the lockdown was officially announced, we ordered about 100 laptops so that we could keep working”, explains the Tours site’s director, Laurent Bertrand. Among the host of measures taken at the site to minimize health risks: masks were supplied and wearing them made obligatory, hand sanitizer was provided, work and common areas were rearranged, movements of the personnel were organized so as to maintain social distancing of three metres, elbow door handles were installed, and all spaces were regularly disinfected.
Despite social distancing, the atmosphere at work remained pleasant, considerate, and cheerful. Employees recall enjoyable moments they shared, like the improvised amateur “hair salon” one Monday morning, where anyone could get a haircut from a co-worker whose training consisted of tutorials watched the night before. “Some of the results were pretty bizarre,” laughs Christophe Lelorain, a Customer Service manager. “In the end, this exceptional situation brought us closer together and boosted our team spirit.”
“It was a complicated time, but we succeeded in maintaining our customer service at a high level [Bouygues Telecom received the “Prix de l’Excellence client 2020” award for this – ed.]. That makes us very proud.”