My conversation with Gavin Short from United Welsh.
We’ve been working with social housing provider, United Welsh, since 2020. I recently chatted with Gavin Short, United Welsh’s customer experience manager. He told me how much the world of social housing is changing. How the cost-of-living crisis, shortage of affordable housing, worsening mental health and overstretched public services have all contributed to a shift in the role of his customer service team.
As a result, he’s noticed an increase in the number of calls to his team from customers who are very distressed and sometimes suicidal. Something, until recent months, they’ve never had to deal with before. On average, he might have three to four calls per month where one of the advisors needs to talk down a customer before they can alert the emergency services.
It would be unthinkable for someone to ring their private landlord and discuss a mental health crisis, but in social housing it is becoming more common for a customer service team to become like a fourth emergency service.
Gavin and his team have addressed these new challenges by putting certain measures in place to help protect and support staff when dealing with these difficult calls. These involve:
- Accurately recording the right information of a case.
- Working with the Police to understand their thresholds and criteria so that questions can be planned in advance accordingly.
- Ensuring safeguarding referrals are prompted to specialists.
- Continuing to foster cross organisational partnerships and shared good practice with other housing associations.
- Listening and supporting our team with a duty of care process.
Duty of care measures include having a debrief immediately after a difficult call, a mandatory break, a routine touch base two to three days later and access to a well-being service officer to ensure their well-being is looked after when dealing with more emotional cases.
United Welsh also introduced Orlo’s social media management platform, which automatically helps respond more quickly to common enquiries and FAQ’s, taking some of the call volume away from call handlers, who then have more time to deal with the more complex enquiries which need to be handled sensitively.
Gavin told me: “We’ve found that many of our customers like communicating with us on social media platforms as it gives them the opportunity to message us out of work hours or ‘on the go’ rather than holding on the phone to speak to one of our customer services team.
It gives our customers flexibility in communicating with us and provides our team members with a break from dealing with the emotionally heavier calls in the day by splitting their time between call handling and answering Live Chat enquiries in a digicomms role.”
Gavin said: “Our customer services team have a huge role to play in helping people with their housing enquiries and coping with today’s pressures. We are still learning how we can help fill the gaps left by other public services, but with the right procedures and technology in place, we can support our customers’ lives better and the well-being of our team.”
If you’d like to find out more about Orlo’s social media management platform please get in touch with us here.