Marcella de Macal and Freya Langendries are Hello Customer’s promotors by heart. As the team lead for business development and marketing manager, respectively, they know exactly the ins and outs of their employer and colleagues. In this interview, they tell us how their journey in the company went so far.
A subterranean start
Marcella literally came a long way before joining Hello Customer: “I joined Hello Customer about four years ago, not long after I moved from El Salvador to Belgium. After an internship of six months, I got the opportunity to prospect the Spanish market as a sales development representative. Iberia Airlines was the first client I acquired. But last year, I got sick during my pregnancy. I ended up in a coma - it really was a close call - and I had to leave the company for seven months. When I finally returned, the company looked quite different and I moved to the marketing team. But a few months later, I got my current job as a team lead business development. Marketing was fine, but my heart will always cry ‘sales’.”
Freya: “I studied languages and joined the company’s AI team about four years ago. They were looking for someone to build the algorithm for the text analysis. I remember I actually started the day after I applied. Six months later, our CEO Leslie (Cottenjé) accidently discovered my personal blog and liked my writing. That’s how I got to write the copy for the Hello Customer website and how I rolled into the job of content marketeer. Half a year ago, I was asked to lead the marketing team. Of course I accepted.”
Marcella: “When Freya and I started, the company was still located in the basement of an old mansion.”
Freya: “And most of the time, the heating didn’t work. Those were great times, though.”
Not an idle hashtag
Hello Customer carries the hashtag #GROWTogether. Besides for growth, the hashtag also stands for Getting things done, Resilience, Open communication and Work with a smile. Freya: “Getting things done is about our hands-on mentality. You need a bit of an entrepreneurial mindset at Hello Customer, especially in a sales or marketing role. You have to be flexible and be able to work by yourself. Since the company grew quite fast, there wasn’t time to overthink every step. Never a dull day, here.”
Marcella: “Getting things done is also about moving up with your team. But Resilience is probably my favourite part of the hashtag. I started from scratch in a new country and didn’t speak or understand any Dutch, which wasn’t always easy. Today, I love Duvel and preparé – I wasn’t exactly familiar with the concept of spreading raw meat on a sandwich, but I’m a huge preparé fan now. (laughs) I’m so grateful for what Hello Customer did for me. I love my job and my colleagues and I enjoy it every day.”
Freya: “Resilience is also about how you handle the lows. Not everything we undertake becomes a resounding success. During the lockdown, budgets were seriously cut to survive. We had to be creative with limited resources. How can we make it work, even when it’s hard to make it work? Open communication stands for a flat hierarchy and became even more important in times of working remotely. Work with a smile are no hollow words either. We laugh a lot. Our colleague Karl, for example, has the loudest laughter on earth. There is definitely room for fun.”
A colleague in need
Marcella already told us she ended up in a coma. When we ask her how the company dealt with her health issues, she blossoms: “Oh, you wouldn’t image what they did for me. I was 29 weeks pregnant when they transferred me to the intensive care unit of UZ Ghent: they put me into a coma and took my baby out. 29 weeks and 5 days is very, very early. I nearly died, there. Those days, the management was in constant communication with my husband. ‘How is Marcella? Can we help?’ They were really worried about me and started right away with paying an extra insurance for my baby, because the hospital bill really started to skyrocket. And my colleagues were wonderful as well. When I got out of the hospital, I was lying sick, weary and depressed at home. I was completely broken and couldn’t do anything. My colleagues set up a rotation schedule of who would bring me freshly cooked food. They did so for over a month. I am forever grateful for that. I’m not just saying I have the best colleagues in the world, I simply know.”
Freya: “We were all so worried about Marcella. Even people who had already left Hello Customer were part of that cook-and-deliver schedule. Now that’s proof that the Hello Customer community already got far bigger than the actual, current payroll!