Coronavirus has brought many challenges to us all since March. Sue Robson is a Resident Liaison Officer for ENGIE working on believe housing’s £138m home improvement programme. She’s taken the time to share her thoughts and experiences of ensuring believe housing customers were looked after during the pandemic.
“I have worked as and Resident Liaison Officer for 15 years. On a usual day I provide friendly, courteous communication with residents and work closely with the site and client teams.
“Carrying out inductions face to face in customer homes provides a personal service and helps us get to know the residents; listening, understanding their individual problems, questions or concerns.
“But during the coronavirus outbreak that’s just not possible. During the worst of the outbreak government guidance was to close our sites and work from home, and without much notice too.
“At the start of the lockdown, my main concern was how would residents cope with incomplete work, many of them elderly and vulnerable? The whole team took action to make sure everything was safe. I then discussed the site closure with all the residents who had incomplete and who were due for work to start. The residents were all very understanding about why we had to stop work and happy with the way we had made the incomplete work safe.
“From then on, I’ve been working from home and contacting customers by phone or letter, including those where work was due to start in early April.
“I’ve stuck to my daily routine, as much as possible. So, I’m still up at 6am, straight in the shower and make-up on ready for work. I’ve set up a computer station in what was my dressing room.
“Just like in normal times, my priority is the residents. I’ve been phoning ‘just for a chat’, but really making sure they were okay and even offering to get any shopping they may need.
“I’ve also been keeping in touch daily with rest of my team, sharing a little joke and keeping our spirits high. If I’ve had any time free, I’ve been making use of it to do a little E-learning online.
“We started the process of carrying out initial contact with residents for the next site we’d be working on over the phone. All of the residents were very understanding of the circumstances and happy to carry out their induction over the phone. I had to advise everyone that we didn’t have a confirmed start date but would keep them informed.
“For a while, the Resident Liaison Team were furloughed. I contacted all the residents to explain that I would not be available during the period.
“During furlough I looked after my elderly parents, and my sister who became ill. I have to admit, it was a little bit of a roller coaster of emotions. No cuddles with my parents, holiday cancelled, queuing for the supermarket … but after a couple of weeks this was the ‘new normal’. There were some good things too; decorating the house, little garden projects, quizzing by video call with the family, playing board games, dog walks and discovering places of beauty just around the corner. In the sunny weather I settled into the new routine. Keeping busy and staying in touch.
“While I wasn’t at work I kept in touch with the rest of the team on social media. Checking in on each other, giving support and having a laugh with work colleagues has been great to keep my spirits up and look forward to when we could get back to our job.
“I started back at work on Monday, 18 May. I needed to get my mind back into work, so I went back to a 6am shower, make-up on, hair done and ready for the day. Lots of things have been put in place to start work on site safely. Social distancing, extra hand washing, more personal protective equipment (PPE) and of course we’re still working from home wherever possible.
“The next challenge was to reconnect with the residents and see how they felt about our return to site.
“I asked each resident by phone, chatted generally to the resident about how they had been during the lockdown and if everyone in their family was well. Of course I also checked if anyone was shielding or self-isolating due to coronavirus.
“I spoke to everyone about the precautions believe housing and ENGIE have put in place to protect customers during work in and around their homes. The residents were happy to resume works, and happy to have someone different to talk to. Fortunately, we had a good relationship with the customers from before lockdown.
“My team have worked closely with believe housing to make sure we had up to date information on any customers who may be shielding, self-isolating or showing symptoms. We checked the information daily before calling customers.
“One resident I spoke to was very concerned as she has four children under five years old and had been inside throughout the lockdown. I spent over an hour on the phone, just chatting, getting to know her and reassuring her of guidance from government and how believe housing and ENGIE would be following them keep her family safe. By the end of the call she was laughing and happy for the work to go ahead.
“I’ve offered residents that option of staying in touch by phone, text, email, or WhatsApp during the works. They’ve also been able to choose whether they wanted to be contacted daily, weekly or only when information is required. And, of course, they can contact me whenever they need to with any queries.
“During my work as a Resident Liaison Officer I have always been aware that I meet people who live alone and don’t have any visitor’s day to day. During the pandemic this is a real issue for a lot more people. I’ve made sure to take extra time to chat and just ask ‘how are you?’ ‘Is there anything you need?’ Or ‘can I do anything for you?’ Sometimes the nonverbal communication when you meet people tells a story. But for now I am the friendly voice at the end of the phone offering emotional support wherever I can. Customer experience is the key and going the extra mile is no problem at all in these challenging times.
“I work with a fantastic site team and we have all supported each other. Even though we are physically apart, we are still working together. And all passionate about providing the highest standard of customer care. “