Focus on: our Customer Contact team

Lewis, Daniela and Christina from Grand Union's Customer Contact team

If you’re calling or emailing Grand Union, the first person you’re likely to reach is one of our Customer Contact team (CCT). There are 20 team members responsible for answering the phones, responding to customer emails and messages on social media.

Their knowledge base is huge; there’s not much about rent, repairs and other housing issues that they don’t know. And if they don’t know the answer, they’ll find someone who will! And because they have such thorough training on so many aspects of what we do as a housing association, many former CCT members have moved elsewhere within the business, to work in Finance, Onboarding or our Life24 team for example.

We spoke to three CCT members, to find out more about them and why they love what they do.


Christina is our Lead Customer Contact Advisor (Training) and joined Grand Union in February 2020 as a Customer Contact Advisor. She’d spent the previous 19 years working in Supporter Services for the Zoological Society of London, based at Whipsnade Zoo near Dunstable.

Christina recalls her first day in Grand Union’s office in Milton Keynes, hearing the other advisors on the phones to customers and seeing the systems in operation.

“I thought ‘I’ll never be able to do that, I’ve made a big mistake’, but the training was really good so that feeling didn’t last long! Then the pandemic hit and we all left the office.

“I started working from home with little experience of the systems but gave it my best shot. There was a huge amount of support from colleagues. Every time I learnt something new, I made notes; I made a bit of an ‘Information bible’ to follow.

“It wasn’t long before I felt confident and that I was providing excellent customer service, showing real compassion for our customers, particularly our more vulnerable ones.

“I was in an advisor role for nearly two years. Then I was accepted on Grand Union’s Aspire programme, which is an introduction to management. I was then promoted to Lead Customer Contact Advisor, managing a small team of colleagues and dealing with any customer escalations.

“Then only six months later, the Trainer position became vacant. I was told I’d be good at it and, although I knew I was a good role model, I had my reservations; speaking in front of people isn’t really my thing. But I decided to apply and I was successful!

“I started putting together a training schedule, with full notes and processes, which is accessible to the whole team. I’m actually really proud of my training plans but they’re constantly evolving and we are always trying to keep them up-to-date and relevant.

“I can’t say it wasn’t a challenge, with everyone having a different learning style, but Grand Union has offered support for those with learning difficulties, and we’ve worked out what’s needed and put support in place with bespoke training, if necessary. We get the same results, it just might take a little longer.

“The best part of my job is speaking to people, I really enjoy that. Since I’ve been leading on the training, my communication skills have improved even more and I’m always looking for how the team can evolve and improve too. It provides me with new challenges and keeps me on my toes!

“I hear those who, like me, on their first day saying ‘I can’t do this’ and hearing them on the phones now, I feel so proud. They’re getting great feedback which gives me so much job satisfaction.

“Training new starters is such a varied role. They spend a week receiving training on rent, repairs and other aspects of the business that are linked. The next week they’ll shadow other colleagues, focusing on one topic, followed by a couple of weeks practicing. Then they move on to the next subject, till they build up their skill base.

“When I’m not training, I’m on the phones myself – I’ve got to keep up my own skill base too, that’s really important!

“As well as training others I’m also being trained myself. I’m excited to be undertaking one of Grand Union’s management training programmes. They push you to learn here, and it makes a real difference when the organisation cares about you like that. Maybe one day I’ll be a team leader or manager, who knows?

“Another role I have at Grand Union is that of a volunteer Mental Health Champion. Colleagues can get in touch for any support with their mental health, or any crisis. Mental health is a subject I really care about because I have family with mental health conditions. I want people to know we care and I’m non-judgemental.

“I enjoy helping people and building trust with our customers. I’ve asked some to speak to a doctor for help with their health, or to our other teams and services at Grand Union for support with their wellbeing, and when I hear that customers have received the help they need, I know I’ve made a difference.

“My role is to ensure our team provides a consistent level of customer service, the service our customers deserve. My ultimate goal is for the team to feel confident and empowered to make decisions; to live our values – we’re driven to do more, we’re in it together and we deliver on our promises – and for them to develop in their roles and become the next batch of role models.”


Daniela joined Grand Union as a Customer Contact Advisor in April 2023, having been a self-employed carer for the previous five years, looking after elderly people or those with disabilities, enabling them to stay in their homes.

“As much as I loved caring, it was a more than a full-time job; I was working seven days a week, 365 days a year, offering a level of care that I felt my customers deserved. Sadly, I lost many to Covid, old age and illness, and I thought it was time for a change. I wanted to do something that would fit around my family life, that would give me a work-life balance. Now it’s a novelty to log off at 5pm and have weekends and holidays with my family!

“I’m very much a people-person. It’s important to me to be in an environment where I can help people. Working for a housing association is new to me, but customer service isn’t. Before I was a carer, I worked in customer service for a bank.

“When I first started at Grand Union, I was faced with different systems, different terminology, different everything. I really thought I was going to need five years to get through my probation period. I thought I’d need a suitcase to carry round all the notes I was making!

“Christina was phenomenal with the training. Suddenly it was all fitting into place and now I don’t know what I was worrying about. There are still things I need support to do, but my confidence has grown so much over the last four months.

“For me, customer service is about seeing it through, doing what you say you’re going to do. Customers don’t want to feel forgotten, they want to be kept informed, so I like to keep them updated so they don’t have to keep chasing us.

“It’s not just the customer who wants an answer though, I want things resolved too! I’ll call everyone in the business, if I must, to get an answer, though I appreciate sometimes we can’t always get one straight away. I’ve found every colleague at Grand Union is approachable and very supportive. Regardless of who I ring, they want to help.

“I enjoy talking and interacting with our customers. Sometimes I can get the smallest thing done, but it can be huge for them. I love the satisfaction of being able to help, getting results, and having happy customers.

“I absolutely love my job, and this is where I want to be; this is the area that has the most impact. The Customer Contact team will always have a relationship with the customer, fixing problems and making customers’ lives easier. I want to learn everything I can and progress in this team.”

Daniela has some advice for others who are looking for a role in customer service:

“Firstly, put yourself in the customer’s shoes and don’t think about what you can’t do, focus on what you can do.

“Secondly, do your job and do it well – what’s the point in having a job if you don’t intend to do it properly? We’re impacting on customers’ lives and it’s our responsibility to make sure they’re as good as they can be.”


Lewis joined Grand Union in July 2022 from a customer service role in the finance and banking industry.

“I was used to speaking to customers on the phone but what appealed to me was working for an organisation that was not-for-profit, unlike banking. A friend was working at Grand Union, and suggested I applied for a role in the Customer Contact team.

“It’s so much better than the role I had before – in banking, your time on the phone is strictly monitored. Here, it’s much more friendly and I enjoy it more.

“The experience I brought to the role initially was mainly financial, so rent collection and money issues. But at Grand Union, I’m not limited to my time on the phone and can take ownership and follow an issue through. I chase other teams, make sure repairs are completed, that rent issues are dealt with, and hopefully reduce customers’ stress levels.

“The customer needs to know you’re listening to them and I try to get the answers they need to stop them worrying. How I am on the phone will affect the customer’s mood. I believe I’m friendly and helpful, calm and reassuring; I always want to do my best for our customers.

“I really enjoy being able to see an end result, resolving queries and issues and affecting the customer in a positive way.

“I think my biggest challenge so far has been getting to grips with my knowledge of repairs and timescales. Rent and finance were subjects I was familiar with, but repairs took me out of my comfort zone!

“The training I’ve received is really good. It’s a good insight into the role and is really relevant. It’s given in sections, so we’re able to pick it up pretty quickly.

“Every day we answer over 300 calls, and over 400 on Mondays, which are always busier! In-between calls we’re picking up emails – we get over 80 of those a day too.

“It’s really nice when customers show appreciation. Every Friday, compliments that have been received are published on our staff intranet, so everyone can read them. I was recently described as kind and understanding, helpful and reassuring. Reading this made me feel very proud.

“Grand Union is a great place to work, it’s the best environment I’ve ever worked in.”