First up, tell us about your role
I work on everything and anything! Across the Help Desk team most of us are ‘product champions’, which means we have one specific Housing Partners product that we specialise in. But not me - I’m the jack of all trades. I’ll jump on whatever is needed as it comes in, which to be honest are usually mostly HomeSwapper landlord and tenant queries.
I really enjoy that I don’t have a specific area of expertise, because it means I get variety. When I come in to work in the morning, I have no idea what I’m going to get – I’ll go wherever I’m needed at the time, which is something I really like about the job.
What’s it like for you working on HomeSwapper?
Again, I really enjoy the variety in terms of the emails we get on the HomeSwapper queries; we’ll sometimes get the background history as to why someone wants to move. So, although our function is really to help people technically get the most out of the system, it can be really quite humbling when you read the circumstances behind the situation.
It’s a nice sense of satisfaction – some stories are really quite heart-breaking – and whilst we can’t actually get them a swap, it’s lovely to think that we can help them along the way. The swap in itself really could be life-changing for somebody. So, you think if you can just help them one little bit to get them on their way then that’s a good thing you’ve done that day.
Tell us how you got into the job…
I was working in property management for a company that handled housing developments on behalf of the landlord with Tammy, who also now works on the Help Desk. She’d come across to work here and had been here about 3 months when another role became available – I was in the right place at the right time! She really recommended working here on the Help Desk, so I put my CV in and the rest is history! I then did exactly the same a few months later and brought Abi in as well.
When I was working for the previous company, I was running the inbound call desk where we took calls from residents who had issues with their properties. We would then pass these on to the relevant teams to be sorted out. It gave me an insight into all the different aspects of people’s expectations around what they should be able to do and what they’re entitled to.
I much prefer working on the Help Desk, as we’re on the social housing side of things, where people have a need and we’re more actively being able to help them. The general rule of thumb that I find with customer service is to put myself in their shoes – if that was my problem, how would I want to be treated?
What are the biggest challenges about working on the Help Desk?
Definitely getting to know the products - things are always being developed, so trying to make sure our product knowledge is up to date is one of the challenges. On HomeSwapper it’s easier, as because it’s the flagship product, it’s all tried and tested. That means that changes to this only get made when they’re absolutely necessary and they’re usually pretty big, so it’s easier to keep track of them.
This is actually one of the areas where working as a team really comes in handy. Before we go to the development team with questions, we check in with one of the other ladies on the Help Desk, as often they’ll have an idea of what’s going on, which is really helpful
The recent ‘timewaster’ update to the messaging function is one example of this; it was so busy on the Help Desk when that came in. The change was made because understandably, you have people who want to be able to use the site well, getting frustrated because they aren’t able to when there’s other swappers on there who just aren’t interacting. Based on the feedback we’re seeing from users who contact us on the Help Desk, this seems to have made a really big difference, so we’re really happy!
What’s it like working within the Help Desk team?
Sometimes you’ve got your head down answering tickets, so you don’t realise how much being part of the team is helping. For example, it’s been so busy the last few days that at the start of today, we had almost 300 tickets and only 2 of us at the desk, but by the time I took lunch we were down to only 60 tickets because we’d worked so hard as a team to get through them all.
Sometimes it can feel so manic at the time, but at the end of it, it really shows that the team is working together.
What’s the best bit about the job?
As you can probably tell from my answers, the variety! Particularly on HomeSwapper; you just don’t know what you’re going to be dealing with each day until you get in. Things change so rapidly!
Why do you think HomeSwapper matters?
It matters because for so many different reasons, tenants find that they need to, or would like to move and with HomeSwapper being the biggest and obviously the best tool, it’s the best place to help people find that match. HomeSwapper puts them in touch with the most people possible, so if they’re patient then there’ll be something out there that turns up.
Sometimes the testimonials that we get when people have swapped come across as really heartfelt; if you’re patient, the right move will come along. The nature of people wanting to move to different areas, means that it’s an essential tool to help them. Where else would they start otherwise?
HomeSwapper is also regulated, which means that we protect tenants’ anonymity and don’t give out their details. Given some of the sensitive reasons why people might be needing to move, the security of that anonymity is key.
If you could tell swappers one thing, what would it be?
Be patient, honest and realistic.
Patient: it’s important to realise that this isn’t going to happen overnight; it’s a massive thing for anyone to undertake and will take time.
Honest: don’t lie to people, as they’ll inevitably find out. Also, don’t let people down if you say you’re going to visit their house, as this is really just bad manners.
Realistic: if you’ve got a one-bedroom flat and want a three-bedroom terrace, the chances of swapping are going to be slim. Don’t limit yourself! Only a certain number of people would want to move into a one-bed flat, so be realistic in terms of what your expectations are.