As a PA my job tends to be office-bound so shop floor “experience it” days give me a great opportunity to spend time with colleagues and customers to get a real insight to what goes on at the front line and understand more about what we do as a business. Although I “get” what The Bromford Deal is about I wanted to spend some “reality” time shadowing colleagues and customer visits. Read more about the Benefits of being a Bromford Customer.
In the meantime, here’s my reflections of a day well spent :
First Stop – Called at a foodbank with my housing colleague, to collect a generous supply of groceries to take to a customer who had moved in to one of our flats last week. Talking to the volunteer at the foodbank his concern was obvious about increasing demand and it was clear how genuine the volunteers are in their eagerness to help and support. They do a great job and ask the right questions … does the customer have a tin opener? ….What cooking equipment do they have? This customer only has a microwave at present so they were careful to choose suitable products.
Second Stop – Visited customer who has mobility and speech problems due to a brain injury. His flat was very warm but so empty with no carpets and hardly any furniture. On moving in, he had been asked to follow up with some tasks such as producing paperwork to the Local Authority, confirming change of address etc. Everything we had asked of him had been done and he seemed very positive. His partner will be living with him and help provide necessary care and his Mom called in whilst we were there, so it seems he is getting a good level of support from family and friends. My colleague noticed some new net curtains which his brother had put up for him and he told us friends were organising a cooker and washer to be delivered by the end of the week and also had the promise of a sofa if transport could be arranged. My colleague confirmed she would also contact local charities to see if they can help provide some furniture so I’m sure he will soon settle in and hopefully get a few more furnishings around him to make his flat more like ‘home’. The support we provide encourages self reliance – for example, even though he had already admitted to lacking confidence in talking on the phone, when phoning to request a repair my colleague dialled the number but then handed him the phone to arrange direct. He did this very well and considering the challenges he has with speech couldn’t have handled it any better – although to most people this is a fairly simple task, I could tell what a big step this was for him and part of what will help him live an independent life.
Third Stop – Visited a customer who cares and lives with his 23 year old son who has severe autism. The house was in a bit of a state and he seemed on edge about his son’s behaviour often ushering him out of the room. His son is “entitled” to just six hours a week respite care which doesn’t really give much relief time for this man who has a lot on his plate and not in great health himself. He seemed a little guarded when being asked to confirm certain information but we will be working closely with him over the next few weeks to try and support him to help improve finance management, the house condition and the quality of life for both himself and his son.
Fourth Stop – Met a new mom with her 22 day old very cute baby, to view a flat which seemed in fairly good condition. She’s in a house share arrangement at the moment so looking to move into a home for her and new baby but will need help and support to get furnishings. She had been working prior to having the baby (over the last 20 years) at a relative’s restaurant and garage and planning to return to work as soon as she can arrange suitable childcare. Although she doesn’t have much material wealth she is obviously someone willing to work hard and looking to make a better life for herself and baby – it will be interesting to see how she progresses.
Fifth Stop – Homevisit to meet a couple with a 9 month old son and 12 year old daughter – they’ve lived in one of our flats for the last 6 years and have been successful in an application to for one of our new build 3 bed houses nearby. They are very excited about moving in the next couple of weeks. I think they were taken aback a little at the in-depth conversation and key “Deal” messages which were outlined very clearly. Photos of passports were taken for ID and thorough checks made, including viewing their bank statements from which it became apparent that, even though they’ve maintained a clear rent account and both working, they’ve fallen into the credit card trap. An appointment was therefore arranged for them to meet our Money Advisor. They did comment how different this experience was to when they first moved in (pre-Deal days) – when basically they viewed the flat, accepted the offer and were given the keys, after which they didn’t really see anyone from Bromford. How things have changed!
Sixth Stop – Home visit to meet a lady who is currently living in private rented accommodation with her two teenage daughters wanting to move into one of our houses to be nearer friends and schools. The conversation, financial and general home checks confirmed that she manages her finances very well, her home was well maintained and in lovely condition and am sure she will be a great customer. She does have confidence issues having suffered abuse from her ex-husband and not worked for many years. She agreed it would be a good idea to attend our Hub and work-clubs and maybe look to take up voluntary work for a few hours per week to help build her confidence up to a level where she would feel able to apply for paid employment. She obviously has a lot to give, not least her finance management and general life skills and I’m sure with a little help and support she will go from strength to strength.
Takeaways for me – these visits highlighted the wide range of skills our front line colleagues need– a wealth of information, knowledge, key contacts, financial management, support and advice – let alone people skills and being able to have honest and, sometimes, tough conversations. I found this a very humbling experience; every customer is unique in terms of circumstances and need – I’m looking forward to joining follow up visits to some of these customers to see how they are progressing. Both housing colleagues that I shadowed were never judgemental, condescending or patronising; they were totally supportive and able to offer advice to identify the best possible outcome. They treat customers as individuals and with total respect showing a firm but fair approach with a touch of humour if and when needed. The Deal criteria was explained very clearly during these visits stressing the importance of having a great relationship that works for both Bromford and the customer and should help everyone adapt to the changing world and austerity cuts in financial help and services.
The key messages of the Deal are all about the importance of having a relationship that works – on our part to provide a home and services in return for customers keeping a clear rent account, being good neighbours, setting clear targets to achieve their best, taking responsibility (allowing access for repairs, attending job clubs, arranging contents insurance), putting something into the community (working, volunteering, training) and to look after their home and garden. Here’s the Deal video which all our new customers are asked to watch. Hopefully the Bromford Deal will equip our customers with the information, tools and confidence to face challenges head on, be self reliant and be the best they can be!