17 Jun 2022

When do we want it? NOW!

After a turbulent couple of years, it feels good to be in the “new normal”. The housing sector has risen admirably to the challenges of the pandemic and despite the tough times we have all endured, it has presented us with a unique opportunity to reset and realign our services to meet our customers expectations. That’s exactly what we did at Wrekin.

After surviving the first twelve months and ensuring we were in a position to deliver customer services the way we always had, we started to question whether our service delivery model was still fit for purpose. Our journey started with us asking our customers what their expectation was of us as a landlord. The response made it clear that our customers didn’t mind who resolved their enquiry as long as we did it quickly, at the point of call or on the same day. It suddenly seemed so obvious, particularly given the high levels of customer satisfaction with our same day repairs service, we immediately knew things needed to

The next logical step was to speak with the housing teams to understand what were the barriers in us achieving this, given the fundamental shift in how we delivered our services having being thrust into homeworking arrangements almost overnight. Whilst they were full of praise for how well they had been supported to date, there were some barriers identified that needed to be overcome to deliver the services our customers deserved. Some reported that they had reduced wellbeing due to working in isolation, there was also an over reliance on emails being used as the main form of communication causing administration waste that prevented them from responding to customers enquiries quickly, and they simply missed the team environment where they could problem solve together on behalf of customers whilst also supporting their team members. It was clear we needed to come up with an innovative way of working that not only replicated the team environment that had served us well previously, it also needed to create capacity within the team to resolve enquiries quickly and alleviate the burden of inefficient processes that had crept in.

So, what did we do? We introduced a “Same Day Housing Management Service” delivery model. We achieved this by creating a virtual office environment, facilitated through Microsoft Teams, that enabled team members to join a “housing triage” with the sole focus on customer resolution. Not only did this improve the customer experience, with nearly 90 per cent of calls resolved within two hours and over 97 per cent within 24 hours, there were added benefits for staff too. Gone were the frustrations of working in isolation at home and in its place were more positive outcomes such as knowledge sharing, training and development of junior members of the team by more experienced individuals, as well as an overall sense of improved wellbeing.

The advantage of having our own internal housing management system has allowed us the flexibility to make changes to how we can quickly resolve and record our customer demand. The customer insight we have been able to be capture as a result of the implementation of this approach has already started to have an impact on our service delivery model and business planning. We now know when our customers prefer to contact us and what they want to contact us about. This has resulted in us being able to look at resource levels on particular days and times to ensure that our customers continue to have their enquiries resolved quickly, whilst reducing the time taken on administration tasks so we can get back to delivering the services that matter most to our customers, such as supporting them through the cost of living crisis. The data we are collecting is already feeding into our customer intelligence systems and in time we aim to use this more as a predictive analytics tool to ensure that we are able to meet our customers future expectations by knowing what they want before they do.

What do our customers think about the Same Day Housing Management Service? Our customer satisfaction levels continue to increase with 96 per cent of customers satisfied with our response times, 86 per cent satisfied with the overall outcome of their enquiry and 93 per cent felt the person they were dealing with was helpful.

We know there is further work to be done and we are only at the beginning of this journey with our customers, but it just goes to show what can be achieved when you have your customers at the heart of service delivery. 

Written by James Fullford

James Fullford is the housing services manager from The Wrekin Housing Group