29 Apr 2022

Using customer insight intelligently can help us harness technology to improve our services

Ask most social housing customers what matters most to them, and a quality repairs service will consistently come out at the top. At GreenSquareAccord, the insight we receive from our customers tells us the same and has helped us pinpoint where we should focus our improvement.

As landlords we have to be willing to challenge ourselves to meet customer expectations, just as any other service provider must do to stay competitive. This means scrutinising every part of the service, looking beyond our sector for inspiration and, most importantly, listening to the customer voice as we move it forward.

Recognising the huge importance of our repairs service to our customers, we have been exploring how we can achieve the best outcomes for them. We discovered our operatives were spending too much time sourcing parts to complete repairs and this inefficiency was hampering our ability to provide a great service in a range of ways.

We asked ourselves what we could do to improve this and based on feedback we received from our customers and teams we worked with our partner Jewson Partnership Solutions (JPS) to introduce an innovative solution we think will transform the service – the UK’s first smart collection points.

We are all familiar with the smart lockers used by the likes of Amazon, and this solution harnesses similar technology - giving our operatives access to secure containers and lockers. When an operative needs parts they order them to the locker via an app which alerts them when they are ready to collect along with a code to gain access.

This simple step has eliminated wasted time our operatives used to spend driving to a store, finding a part, and waiting to be served. It will allow us to complete more repairs the first time we visit a customer, as operatives can know the parts they need will be in stock and they can get hold of them before they attend. The rollout of this technology will empower our colleagues to work smarter rather than harder and allow us to deliver much-improved customer satisfaction in the process.

Being the first in the UK to use the JPS smart collection points was not our goal; innovation for innovation’s sake serves no purpose. But we’re proud to be embracing technology in a way that addresses pain points in the customer journey. This technology was already out there - as a sector we must be willing to embrace technology where it can improve our services.

A simple lesson for us is that listening to our customers and using their voice as business intelligence - as we would use data - is what helps us to arrive at the best solutions and outcomes. This new technology will bring improvements that we know will directly benefit our customers, because they told us.

We knew that to meet customer needs and improve satisfaction we would need to complete more repairs first time, to free up more appointment time for customers, to reduce the number of calls they need to make to our contact centre and to prevent them taking unnecessary time off work. In other words, our customers formed our objectives and this meant we could set about finding the right solution – that is how we must approach innovation and service improvement.

Accountability, transparency and clear reporting to our customers are at the heart of the Social Housing White Paper and are rightly the focus of the regulator. We launched our Voice of the Customer strategy in October 2021 to give our customers a stronger voice and place them at the forefront of everything we do. Smart lockers are a great example of how this approach is helping us to clearly understand what our customers value most and respond with targeted solutions.

Innovation is often aspired to as something new and visionary but in reality, it’s much simpler. It’s about listening to what’s not working as well as it should and looking to remove or improve, using other sectors for inspiration. The solution is often already out there, ready and waiting for our sector to make it our own.

Written by Rachel Crownshaw

Rachel Crownshaw is executive director of operations at GreenSquareAccord