Whilst 2020 was always going to be one of those milestone years, I don’t think anyone could have predicted that it was going to go down in history as one of the greatest challenges that every business in almost every sector across the globe was going to endure.
We have witnessed widespread closures, panic buying like never before, and mass isolation that I never envisaged was even possible. My phone was buzzing with news bulletins coming through every hour and emails from almost every organisation I have ever engaged with, business or personal, informing me on how their business was adapting to these circumstances. Our business was no different. We needed to ensure we continued to deliver a quality service and pre-empt what the next change was going to be.
It’s fair to say that I’ve been working for far too many years than I care to remember but never in all that time have I faced into something quite like this. Without doubt, like everyone else, we were in new territory and it soon became clear that Vida had to make immediate and decisive actions as we faced into the unknown. Great organisations don’t do something to be seen to be doing it – they do it because it is relevant to their purpose and the right thing to do. An old mentor of mine always said, that “If you don't stick to your values when they're being tested, they're not values, they're hobbies”. Never has that quote been more relevant and I have seen proof that our values are embedded right across our business.
As we all started to adapt to working from home, we recognised the importance of staying in touch with each other to ensure we maintained that team spirit that we are all so proud of at Vida. We also knew it was a priority for us to keep our customers informed of what was happening in such a rapidly changing world. Vida has always encouraged flexible working, and already had much of the technology needed to be able to do that, but one package which we all did quickly adapt to was Microsoft Teams. Regular video team calls have helped us maintain that personal contact and share with each other our own personal experiences of working from home.
Like many organisations, we took the decision to place a number of our people on furlough, and our priority has been to ensure that those colleagues impacted by this had all the support necessary. We recognise that it’s an unsettling time for them and we have regularly encouraged feedback on how they are feeling and if we are not communicating as often as they need. Teams have set up What’s App groups and there are weekly quizzes for some light relief. We’ve also been sharing guidance from our health and well-being partners on how to deal with being at home, and, in many cases, having to juggle with home schooling.
While we suspended accepting new business, our immediate focus has been to support our existing customers, directly affected by COVID-19, and agree how we can help them during these unprecedented times. Like most lenders we saw a huge surge in calls to our Mortgage Service Centre from borrowers wanting to set up their three-month payment holiday. As we didn’t want customers waiting for long periods to speak to an operator because of the high demand, we very quickly set up an online Payment Holiday request form for customers. Feedback from our customers was that it was easy to follow, and it gave them immediate peace of mind . All they really wanted was that they could rest assured that they had a three month holiday from their mortgage payments. Clearly how we communicate with our customers has had to change too and we continue to engage with them via email and text to ensure they are up-to-date with what is happening during their payment holiday period and what will happen when this ends.
A key learning for us has been to think differently about what we are doing, who are we doing it for and when is the right time to do it. We are all customers too and so we constantly challenged ourselves on “How would I want to be treated ?”. Key for us has been keeping customers and colleagues informed and being open and honest at a critical moment in peoples’ lives.
We all know good communication is important, but at a time like this it’s vital. We aim to continue to help our customers, colleagues and partners by ensuring open lines of communication to ensure we all come out of this crisis better people and a better business.