Mark Davies is managing director of BCMGlobal

It’s perhaps ironic at a time when everything has been virtual, that customer experience has never been more important or trickier.  Many customers and employees are stressed.

Businesses like ours have been quietly managing some very big issues for our clients’ customers. The support of mortgage deferrals, the furlough scheme and other fiscal measures to help people through these times has been welcome and the right thing to do.

But as support is now being withdrawn, we should expect anxiety and stress to come to the fore again because, over and above the health implications of this pandemic, the economic consequences can cause extreme worry for borrowers and for the people that are on the end of the phone trying to help them.

We have over the last year or so unsurprisingly seen a surge in borrowers wanting to talk to us about changing circumstances. As a result, our staff’s workloads are increasing, and customer demands, and behaviours can become very volatile adding to the pressure of the job.

Regardless of society’s collective rush to embrace the virtual world, when the chips are down people, rather understandably in my opinion, do not always want self-service – they need the empathy, creative thinking, and reassurance that comes from human relationships. That’s what our people do and have done now, so well; day in, day out; in the office, out of the office. #Respect

During a crisis, humans focus on the personal. Trust is possibly the single strongest emotion we have. Everything we do together is based upon it. We are very happy to self-service when all is well and, in particular, when it’s a purchase with little consequence. But the borrowing on your home is a serious undertaking. Financial stress has massive consequences for the borrower and their dependants, and the stakes are sky high when things go wrong. Just look at the cladding scandal if you want any more evidence of how much people’s homes mean to them.

While we are all rightly looking forward to emerging from the pandemic lockdown, we are in many ways only just starting on a journey that will be uncomfortable for many. Policy makers may well mutter about inflation and interest rates but there is not one politician in the land who can afford to see them rise in their constituency. Homeowners in distress are voters too and everyone is acutely aware that having got through the last two years, no-one wants to jeopardise the prospect of a recovery.

Whatever happens though, it will be our front-line staff who pick up the pieces of any collateral damage or systemic hardship encountered by homeowners, the same girls and guys who had to take on board the payment deferral programme, recognise vulnerability and work from home for the last 16 months. For me they are the unsung heroes who probably don’t even think they warrant this shout-out but, obviously, I don’t agree with that.