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Tea and a chat - Bicram Athwal, CRM Analyst

Category: testimonial, Housing, What Our People Say, Staff Testimonial, Supported Housing, PA Housing, House-building, analytics, analysis, analytical skills

Testimonial

As we continue our month-long series of articles featuring members of the PA Housing team, CRM Analyst Bicram Athwal joins us via Zoom to talk about his day job, and how his recent experiences have given him an even greater appreciation for his colleagues and their work.

What is your average day usually like?

My job is all about making sure PA Housing's back office processes flow via our Customer Relationship Management system. Each customer query is a case in the system, and how each case is monitored and dealt with is measured via key performance indicators.

CRM generally has a bad reputation, and staff in most organisations complain about their systems ­– but, slowly but surely, we're changing the perceptions among PA Housing's staff, and we're starting to get positive feedback about our CRM.

Depending on which CRM workflow I'm concentrating on, I work with colleagues in many different teams across the organisation. Prior to lockdown, the CRM Team was working with our repairs team on ways to potentially simplify the repairs process, giving users more information to help identify the type of repair required and ensuring the customer journey was streamlined from start to finish. Since the lockdown, this mapping has progressed and developed further.

What has your average day been like during the Covid-19 crisis?

Usually, I work a 9 to 5-ish day. However, over the last couple of weeks, I've been volunteering to help colleagues by doing night shifts at the Wolsey Building, PA Housing's extra care scheme is Leicester.

I'm there to provide additional support during this difficult time, carrying out wellbeing calls and safety checks – but I'm also continuing with my day job – only at night. I'm working my way through the CRM system's workflows, and I'm still joining team video calls, which are organised for later in the afternoon so that I can take a nap.

I would work overnight in my previous role as a business analyst in the CRM team at Next, the retailer, so I'm used to functioning 24/7. During recent weeks, I've been productive, cracking on with identifying opportunities to streamline PA's CRM system, lining up changes that will be ready to go once things get back to normal.

What is the most important thing you've learned during this unusual time?

I have new level of appreciation for PA Housing's officers and wardens working at schemes like the Wolsey Building. I don't know how they keep so calm.

Many residents have been very anxious about coronavirus, and members of the team have been able to support and reassure them. Some team members are also looking after vulnerable people at home, and they have their own worries, but they don't bring them to work. Their emotional resilience is remarkable.

Also within the wider community, it's been heartening to see local groups dropping cooked meals to vulnerable residents at the Wolsey Building and across my local community. It's increased my sense of pride of Leicester and its diverse communities who have really stepped up to support each other.

What is your favourite part of your job?

I joined PA Housing in October 2017 and was working as in the Digital Team, working on the My PA app before moving role in order to focus on the Customer Relationship Management System in July last year.

I originally took the job at PA because there was an opportunity to build the My PA app, and to shape my own role. I enjoyed being able to sit down with residents and find out what works for them, and what doesn't, and develop the app according to their feedback.

My favourite part of my current job is being so close to my customers – my colleagues. I don't need to organise focus groups anymore– the people I need to talk to are right in front of me and I get constant feedback. As a result of getting wider support and buy-in from the business, I have started to get more engagement and satisfaction from seeing the improvements to CRM and how it benefits various teams and ultimately our customers.

I live in social housing, so it's important to me, and I also like the policy side of the sector. I studied International Relations and Politics at university, so reading about the work of the National Housing Federation, political developments and other organisations is a side passion.

I went to De Montfort University and I was recently asked to write an article for its newsletter about my career. I focused on the fact that whatever your specialism – be it law, finance or IT ­– you can work in the housing sector and have a social element to your job. I'm starting to develop a new found love of writing about things I am passionate and care about, and it's been fantastic to be approached by other organisations, such as National Housing Federation, to write blogs and articles for them.

What would you say makes you unique?

A lot of people compliment me on how approachable I am, even at National conferences people tend to just start talking to me. I don't get offended, I take criticism on board, and I don't take sides – I always try to put customers first.

Outside of work, I am one of those unique individuals that only have an automatic driving licence. I never understood the concept of having three pedals when we have only two feet!

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PA Housing

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