Focus On: Justin Watson

People – 17 November 2021

At Grand Union, we know that customer feedback is essential to providing excellent service. That’s why, as part of an organisational restructure in 2020, we introduced a Customer Resolutions team – helping to listen to and resolve customer queries.

Justin was one of two colleagues appointed as Customer Resolutions Advisors and he’s enjoying the freedom and responsibilities of his new role.

Relatively new to the world of housing, Justin left behind 20 years working in retail to work in a sector closer to his heart. Motivated by personal experience, he’s proud to work for Grand Union, he knows that through his role, he is making a real difference to the community.

“I wanted to be part of something bigger”

Having worked in retail for two decades, Justin was prompted by a drive to help others, and took the leap into housing.

Justin said: “A few years ago, my outlook on life and what I wanted to get out of it took a drastic turn, while I was caring for my mum. After she passed away, I was left with a lingering sense that, through my career, I wanted to help other people; not simply a cog in a ‘profit machine’. I wanted to be part of something bigger.

“Perhaps my move into housing was also inspired by the many years I had worked in retail – a sector dominated by hitting targets and KPIs, far away from the values I hold close to me.

“I considered jobs where I could help others through my role. My partner had worked in housing for many years and, having grown up in social housing myself, it seemed like a fantastic environment to make a difference to people’s lives.

“I had the privilege of being able to ‘cherry pick’ the organisation I worked for and it was Grand Union that stood out for me due to its values. It is a caring housing provider, striving to improve the lives of its customers and the wider community. It was exactly what I wanted from an employer.”

Finding your feet with the Customer Contact team

Having no previous experience working in housing, Justin joined our Customer Contact team as a Customer Service Officer, kickstarting his new career. Being part of the team is a fantastic starting point for those wanting to forge a path in housing.

“In retail, I’d worked my way up to a managerial position, so the new role involved letting go of some responsibilities – which had its pros and cons. It was a great foundation to gain knowledge about the industry and, I think like many others, I didn’t realise quite how much variety the role would entail!

“On any given day, we were liaising with customers from more than 20 different communication methods, from formal Independent Legal Advice (ILA) documents to queries via social media.”

Customer feedback – the key to improving our services

Justin recently helped a family who were having ongoing issues moving into their property. He liaised with other teams to quickly arrange materials, funded by Grand Union, to put the finishing touches to their property. Justin went the extra mile, helping to upgrade the doors and improve the garden.

“Working as a Customer Resolutions Advisor can be challenging, but I love being able to help others and work with people across the business. With it being a new role, we have a blank canvas and can continuously adapt the way we work.

“There are several ways we receive feedback from customers about our services, these include: ‘Rant and Rave’ software, a programme we use to view customer communications; referrals from the Customer Contact team and via a complaints form on our website. We respond to each complaint within 24 hours. We also receive reviews via Google, and we respond to these within 24 hours too.

“We follow the criteria outlined in the Housing Ombudsman Code, to ensure the most appropriate actions are taken to resolve any problems affecting our customers. We also follow our own high standards, checking that polices are followed by Grand Union colleagues.

“It’s definitely a role where you see a direct impact of your work on others – that’s truly rewarding. I also enjoy the freedom and responsibility to manage my own time; I feel like I have the headspace to sit back and reflect on a customer’s comments, which in turn leads to a better service.

“I recently helped someone who had just lost their mum. We were able to clear the existing funds from the tenancy, equating to hundreds of pounds, recognising the difficulties faced by the family. This was a huge relief to everyone involved.

“There’s lots of information gathering in my job, which appeals to my style of working. I’ve also enjoyed helping to shape up our communications, making our letters more friendly and approachable.

“With every piece of customer feedback, there is a chance to improve our services – we see each one as a learning opportunity. I enjoy working across the business, with many colleagues and senior management when investigating any issues.”