Ifrah – commitment to communities – March 2020

As well as having strong organisational and communication skills, many of our administrators demonstrate their own initiative and competence in business.  Ifrah, an Auriga First Administration Assistant, recently demonstrated her drive to deliver excellent customer support by engaging a hard-to-reach community.

All calls for support from Thames Water Customer Assistance Fund (CAF) come through the Auriga First team.  Ifrah said “As I have a good telephone manner, I was asked to be a first point of contact for customers. Having demonstrated I was capable of handling conversations with vulnerable customers effectively – and processing accurate information, I started helping people complete their applications for assistance”. 

In December 2019 Ifrah began helping a Somali customer fill out a form for assistance from Thames Water. Unfortunately, the customer was struggling to provide proof of income and prior to getting support from Ifrah, her application for help had been declined twice, due to lack of necessary information.  Ifrah quickly identified that the customer needed specialist support from a local Somali Community Centre. After researching the closest centre to the customer in London, she made a referral for them and the customer visited the centre, where she was able get help with providing and sending Auriga proof of income. Once this proof was in place, the application for assistance was assessed and the customer was successfully awarded Thames Water CAF funding toward her water arrears.

Ifrah discussed how she’d helped the customer with her manager (Julie) who was delighted with the results of Ifrah’s work and recognised that Ifrah’s language skills, communication and ability to reach out to the Somali community, was an opportunity to increase accessibility to assistance in other locations and for other clients.

Ifrah recognised she could also help:

(i)         The United Utilities Trust Fund – in spreading the scope of its services and engagement in the North West. In February 2020 she created a database of information on Somali Community Centres.  This enabled her to reach out to 10 Centres – briefing them on the Trust Fund support, making calls, sending emails and packages with leaflets to increase awareness and build links.

(ii)        With RECITE software, a translation tool Auriga offer when making applications in different languages. Recently Ifrah has been checking their Arabic translations for accuracy and uncovered many issues native Arabic speakers would be affected by. As a result, she worked with RECITE to make improvements to fix issues with text.

Mark Abrams, Auriga Chief Executive commented: “Ifrah’s insight into Arabic language and Somali communities is a real opportunity for us – and she has shown fantastic commitment and built great connections for the company, clients and customers.   Based on her knowledge we take into account the needs of vulnerable Arabic customers in designing customer journeys and our channel strategy.”


Laura – the hands-on IT Manager

Put simply, being an IT Manager requires commitment!  It is a skilled and quite often, a thankless job. When everything is working the way it should, we rarely think about them. However, when there’s an issue with technology, everyone needs them!

Laura started working at Auriga 11 years ago straight out of college as an Office Junior, after gaining an Advanced Diploma in Office Technology. One year after being at Auriga Laura was promoted to an Administration Assistant. When the Office Manager left she was asked to take on extra duties including facilities, IT and the telephone system.

For five years Laura continued working in administration and gained considerable knowledge of the breadth of work and processes at Auriga. In 2015 her role began to focus more on IT and she trained herself to understand and resolve (without getting lost!) the details of different IT issues. She did this by shadowing our external IT providers, quickly developing the ability to communicate and resolve reporting issues – and address the IT problems of her ‘non-technical’ colleagues.

This led to Laura gaining a promotion to the IT Technical Support Officer role in 2017, where she had a much wider variation in responsibilities. The constant change in IT, security and innovation within the business gave Laura new responsibilities – and this was  great for her career.

After two years as the IT Technical Support Officer she was ready for the next step in her career; in 2020 Laura was appointed as our IT Manager. She said she felt she had ‘grown and changed’ with the company, moving from administration duties, to a technical role and then into responsibility for direction and planning IT.  Laura now enjoys engaging across many areas of the company. Her current tasks include IT Audits, Cyber Essentials, penetration testing, liaising with external IT companies, help setting up new contracts, telephone systems and general IT support.

In 2019 Laura completed training with the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) the IT industry’s top trade association. She has gained professional certification, covering; installing, maintaining, customising, and operating personal computers. Laura said ‘taking the exam was the most challenging thing I’ve done since leaving college. After the training I had to revise hard, learning a huge volume of information before taking two exams. It is a valuable qualification and I was happy with my score’.

Laura has played a critical role in ensuring Auriga remains fully operational despite the coronavirus.  Mark Abrams, CEO at Auriga describes Laura as ‘unflappable and eager to help in any way she can’.  Becoming a manager has also enabled her to focus on things she is passionate about, like Crystal Reports, as she likes getting important and insightful information to those who need it to do their jobs.

One aspect of her work that she’s most proud of, is the new database, website and portal for the British Gas Energy Savings Trust. Laura enjoyed the challenge of a quick turnaround and working collaboratively across the business.

Laura has a strong focus on digital services and this has led the implementation of a completely new IT infrastructure at Auriga using Remote Desktop Services – implemented only a week before the office closed due to Covid-19. Without the planning and implementation work of the previous 5 months, this would have been impossible, and the company would only have been able to support around a third of external users during the early lockdown period.

The next exciting step is the implementation of a new Auriga Integrated Database (AID) which will take over the tasks of the Application Manager, AdvicePro and dozens of individual spreadsheets and reports currently completed each day/week/month/year. That will be a major change for everyone and continue the drive of Auriga becoming an IT led business.


Mandeep – help in a crisis – March 2020

Mandeep, Finance Assistant at Auriga, describes her work on emergency fuel payments to help customers in very vulnerable situations.

Mandeep looks after emergency fuel payments – ensuring vulnerable customers in a crisis can take vouchers to PayPoint and Post Office Payzone outlets to top up gas and electricity. We carry out this service for over 20 different clients across the country, one of the largest being Npower.

Keeping the power going to a household in crisis is a big responsibility, requiring professionalism, a quick response and high levels of customer service when issues arise.

Typically, Mandeep deals with around 50 payment requests a week, but in December 2019 the number of requests increased significantly; unexpectedly we had to deal with double the volume against normal seasonal demand.  As Christmas approached, Mandeep was receiving over 100 requests a day asking for urgent payments to be made. Clients, unable to provide an advance warning about the surge in demand, asked Auriga to manage the situation.  In addition, Auriga had also gained new some projects – like working for the NEA to help pay customers with fuel vouchers.

Mandeep said “I took it in my stride, I’ve always enjoyed working under pressure and felt really motivated to help people. I completed all the payments – often working overtime to get through it”. She had the confidence and drive to work through a tough situation – skills gained in her previous job in banking and debt.

On Christmas Eve, Mandeep continued making emergency payments; at 4.30pm she took a call from a customer without power, asking for assistance with an emergency payment.  Her issue was getting the fuel bank voucher to work, which Mandeep had processed earlier that day and she had obtained from a village PayPoint store.  Mandeep spoke with the customer and worked directly with shop employees to try and resolve the issue. Unfortunately, the manager was not contactable and the shop could not address the problem. The customer was highly anxious and asked to try an alternative PayPoint shop, Mandeep explained the closest one was five miles away. Walking alone in the dark, the customer had the support of Mandeep on the phone, for the entire journey.  Fortunately, the staff in the shop were supportive and Mandeep could work with them to get the voucher for the customer completed – no small task!

When the customer got home at 11.30pm she called Mandeep to say the meter had been topped up – she was overjoyed to have the power on – so grateful she could barely speak.

Mark Abrams, Auriga Chief Executive said: “We are extremely proud of Mandeep, she worked like an emergency service, ready to deal with whatever was thrown at her, to ensure this customer had a warm home for Christmas.”

“Providing outstanding customer service is a major priority for us,” said Kim Wootton, Auriga Operations Director. “We have to be ready to deal with a wide range of enquiries. If there is a problem, then of course customers can be quick to contact us.  Although this is not a 24hr service – Mandeep went above and beyond to avoid this customer facing a crisis at Christmas.”


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