Paul Oakley, Supplier Relationships Manager
We have worked with North Yorkshire County Council since 2016 to help provide adequately equipped properties to house resettled Syrian refugee families. Read more about the project in our case study. In partnership with our supplier TFS (The Furnishing Service) we have delivered essential items to help fully fit out the properties from washing machines and cookers to furniture, bedding packs and household utensils.
Helping customers to help others
Supporting those in need is at the heart of everything we do. To ensure we deliver the most suitable items as well as an exceptional service to our customers, making it easier for them to help their beneficiaries or tenants, it is vital that our suppliers share this focus and vision.
A great example of this dedication in action was when I met John, a supervisor for TFS’ delivery team, and joined him on a post-delivery inspection of two of the North Yorkshire resettlement properties earlier this month.
The first thing that struck me was the fact that John had travelled from Glasgow to Selby alone to complete the checks before heading back home the same day – covering a distance of over 450 miles! John would usually be part of the team making the delivery, but these particular deliveries were made at short notice and during his week off. (The dates that refugees are due to arrive in the UK and move into their new homes change regularly and this has been the case especially during 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, our unique business model and relationships with suppliers ensure that products are always available for direct delivery with a quick turnaround time, no matter how many times the dates move.) John had got up at 4:30am on the day I met him to start his journey, on his first day ‘back in the office’.
As I was taken around each property I appreciated John’s professional and methodical approach as I watched him check off all of the items against his inventory list. We found that one scrubbing brush was missing from one of the properties, and John explained to me that he has the authority to find ways to resolve issues with missing/damaged items on the day to avoid delays to the tenants being able to move in. On this occasion, John was going to visit the nearby retail park to purchase a replacement before heading home.
From delivering items to constructing furniture
It was great to see first-hand a number of large furniture items that we provide through TFS via our online Portal – sofas, tables, wardrobes, chests of drawers – which are can all be supplied pre-built to save time. TFS do stock flat-pack alternatives too which they will deliver by exception which is helpful if, for example, upon delivery they find that a wardrobe won’t fit up a stairwell. The bed frames provided to these particular properties were flat-pack models which the delivery drivers had built on-site. John explained that the delivery teams are pros at building these items, however the manufacturer can sometimes change things around without notice and they find themselves having to learn from scratch from the included instructions. This is another example of the value FFBS places on being solution-focussed, both in our own decisions and in what we look for when contracting with new suppliers.
In the kitchen, John checked that all the white goods were properly unpacked and installed. One of the cookers did not turn on when he tried to show me it, and he immediately took out screwdrivers and flashy-beepy gadgets (a technical term!) to check the connection. He showed me that the cooker was correctly fitted, but that there was no power supply running to the connection point on the wall, which will need to be resolved by the council/landlord. As it was his first day back from leave, he wasn’t aware yet if this had been reported during the delivery itself, so he doubled checked with head office who confirmed that it was in the process of being resolved.
It’s the little touches
John also made sure all of the small household items were laid out neatly on each bed and the kitchen worktops. He likes the items to be arranged in this way as a) it makes it easy for him to check off his inventory and b) it allows the tenant, when they move in, to see what has been provided and choose for themselves which cupboards/drawers to store everything in. I had assumed previously items would be put away as part of the delivery but I think this is a nice touch which makes it easier for the families to make the house their own home, and don’t have to go searching through cupboards to find out if they have a frying pan or to check how many cups they have. This way, they know as soon as they enter the kitchen.
Overall John seemed to take a lot of pride in his work and understood the background and importance of the resettlement project. He was very knowledgeable about the products and the expectations of the service. The properties looked great and ready to be lived in, which is of course the intention, and it was clear the council had also done some work to the properties such as fitting new carpet ready for the new arrivals.
North Yorkshire County Council has been very happy with the level of service FFBS and TFS have provided on the project so far.
Jonathan Spencer, Project Manager for North Yorkshire Refugee Resettlement said: “[they have] provided us with great piece of mind whilst managing the fit out of our properties in North Yorkshire. They ensured that all of our requirements were met in a timely manner and provided excellent customer service throughout. [FFBS’] partnership with this scheme has been invaluable.”