Since my last blog, we have had the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, with new spending on housing projects totalling £3.7 billion. This is made up of £2.3 billion to be spent on infrastructure for housing developments to support the building of 100,000 new homes with a further £1.4 billion added to the Government’s capital grant fund that housing associations can draw down to build 40,000 extra affordable homes.
Housing is now at the forefront of national news agendas, with new affordable homes across all tenures needing to be delivered by providers up and down the country in response to the housing crisis. Unless social landlords face the lack of supply of decent, affordable new homes head on, this issue will perpetuate through generations.
Where does customer services and data fit into these hopes for regeneration? I would argue that the data extracted from social housing customers is vital to understanding how the sector is changing and how services can be improved. Even with the shift towards self-service solutions, customer services data is an inherent part of the infrastructure needed to support successful social housing, providing business intelligence which enhances customer satisfaction with the levels of service on offer.
With the onset of winter, repairs issues tend to be heightened, with the usual frozen pipes, faulty heaters and broken boilers. Being able to line up customer data with the internal culture of the landlord is key; repairs history for example, is worthless unless you have the correct data and you are doing something proactively with it; reviewing past actions and identifying inefficiencies to enable operatives to have the correct information about the job to deliver repairs which are right first time.
Our own web-based reporting tool, Keyfax Interview Online, enables tenants to report repairs around the clock, at a time that is convenient to them. Efficient and effective repairs service is at the heart of social housing businesses and because tenants have self-diagnosed the repairs issue they are engaged and have bought into the solution. The Keyfax system enables easy and accurate diagnosis of repairs by taking tenants through a number of highly usable steps with helpful diagrams to pinpoint the exact nature of the repair required. It then integrates with the organisation’s own systems to enable the repair to be raised and an appointment time to be selected that is convenient for them. The whole process takes less than a few minutes and delivers a seamless service from the tenant’s point of view.
The multi-channel landscape for customer contact is constantly evolving with new sources of data from digital platforms and social media. It is my belief that customer services are central to the success of social housing, pressing buttons for quality and efficiency including savings, but data can do so much more. Customer services continue to play a vital part for providers, assisting to deliver efficiencies which will be identified in the pending Housing White Paper, planned for early next year and beyond.
Director, Omfax Systems Ltd