By Isabel Thonger, Director of Customer Experience
When the UK went into lockdown, many people, including our customers, were thrown into chaos. Some were juggling child care and home schooling while trying to work from home, some had been furloughed on 80% pay and some had no income at all.
With budgeting becoming a priority, many customers were concerned that they couldn’t pay their rent. The anxiety of the potential to lose their home after losing their income or their job was just too much in what was already a difficult time.
“We wanted, and needed, to help put their minds at rest as quickly as we could.”
We were fortunate in that we were already an agile organisation. We had previously invested in technology to allow staff to work remotely. This meant staff could safely work from home, adhering to government guidelines, but still providing an essential service to our customers.
Also, a huge advantage to us was that we’d been on our ‘Customer 2020’ transformation journey for two years already. Our behavioural insight project and Rant and Rave software allows us to “hear” the customer voice and translate this into action, whether that’s developing new processes or protocols or in this case, a new rent support team.
It took us just four days to set up this new team, in part thanks to the manager’s guidance, the team leader’s hard work and the many staff who volunteered to be on the team because they really wanted to do something to help those affected by coronavirus.
In the first six weeks, colleagues spoke to over 1,000 customers, many of whom had never contacted us before but were anxious about their rent, and their future.
We provided reassurance, advice and offered flexible rent payments. Not only that, but we helped customers to claim benefits they’d never claimed before and made them aware of some of our in-house support services, such as money advice and tenancy support.
And some customers just wanted a listening ear. We’ve talked to people who were shielding, self-isolating and those who were unwell. We’ve chatted to the self-employed, those working from home, and those on basic salaries but with no commission so they had very little to live off.
It’s been a challenge, but none more so for those who are struggling in these unprecedented times, and when we get feedback like the comments below, it really does hit home that what we do, really does matter.
“I would like to say the advice and help from the lady on the rent emergency helpline was first class. Her knowledge and phone manner was excellent, I cannot praise her enough. She took the time to explain our options with regard to rent payments. I realise she is part of a team that was set up to deal with the troubled times we find ourselves in and I’d like to thank the whole team for all the good work they are doing to help all customers.”
I feel very proud of what the team has achieved.