How technology is helping UK housing associations transform the tenant experience
The UK's housing industry must contend with a number of singular challenges, as they ensure they remain efficient, scalable and profitable, while still keep the wellbeing of their tenants at the centre of everything.
With close to £10 billion recently given to housing associations by the government, there is now more pressure than ever to demonstrate that the sector as a whole and the delivery of quality, affordable social housing and shared home ownership.
In particular, we will soon see the official launch of the National Housing Federation's Sector Scorecard, which has been in development since 2017. This metric will allow housing associations to voluntarily display the quality of service they are offering their tenants, in much the same way as the widely-regarded Net Promoter Score (NPS), but basing the final score on factors that are more pertinent to the sector's desired outcomes. These are:
- Business health. An association's overall profitability.
- Development. The creation of new social housing by an association.
- Outcomes delivered. The overall level of satisfaction amongst and association's tenants.
- Effective asset management. The level of investment an association displays regarding the maintenance and occupancy of its properties.
- Operating efficiencies. The overall level of cost control an association displays regarding the maintenance of its properties.
These figures are collated and used to provide a clear picture of a housing association's overall performance and how effectively they are utilising their available budget, expressed as a percentage. With this metric readily available online, prospective tenants can get a clear picture of the kind of experience they can expect with an association, driving increased transparency and accountability, ensuring the sector as a whole consistently delivers the best possible value for money.
More than 300 associations have already signed up for the scheme, and it already looks set to become a key factor in how the sector delivers its services and measures its performance. In light of this, it is imperative that housing associations put infrastructure in place that will enhance efficiency and cost control while ensuring the tenants' time in their rental homes is enjoyable and stress-free, maintaining their high scores and, in turn, attracting new tenants. However, with the rise of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, maintaining tenant engagement has become considerably more difficult, with face-to-face contact mostly out of the question and other channels of communication becoming more critical than ever. In light of this, housing associations must fully embrace multi-channel communication solutions, where multiple platforms are intelligently integrated to ensure tenants enjoy quick resolutions to queries, regardless of how they prefer to get in touch.
It may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but the process has, in fact, already begun and yielded highly promising results…
Technology has shown its transformative effects… Now it's time for the next phase
Throughout 2020, we've seen the positive effects secure, flexible, high-performance infrastructure has on organisations' ability to weather the unexpected while retaining their usual standard of service quality - across both the public and private sectors. In many ways, we have moved from what was originally a purely practical concern - when organisations needed to transition to remote working - to reconsidering the way we work, communicate and collaborate. With remote working and Cloud solutions now a well-established part of most organisations' infrastructure and working practices, they are free to shift their focus from immediate, technology-based concerns back to long-term business outcomes - namely the tenant experience.
The implications for housing associations are huge. With the impending launch of the Sector Scorecard, the transformations associations have seen throughout 2020 mean they are now equipped with the tools to offer tenants consistently high-quality experiences across multiple channels, including voice, video and chat bot, regardless of where both they and association staff are located. Furthermore, the move away from cumbersome legacy systems towards scalable Cloud infrastructure means they are well-equipped to manage their resources in a more efficient, cost-effective manner, even in the event of another COVID-scale shift in the landscape. With the planned increase in the speed and volume with which social housing is built, this strong foundation is sure to prove invaluable.
But technology is just part of the picture. As we've touched on, housing is a sector where the human touch is everything, which means associations must establish strong relationships with the right technology partners to make the most of these opportunities.
A shared philosophy of transparency, innovation and customer service
Exponential-e has worked closely with the UK's housing associations for more than ten years now, and for good reason. We are deeply committed to technological innovation that supports different sectors' unique goals, requirements and ways of working, and as part of our commitment to acting as a trusted partner for every customer, and the first company in any sector to display our NPS score live on our website. Our own Customer Charter not only sets out our specific standards of service quality and the resolution of incidents, but the way in which we conduct our daily interactions with customers and end users.
This shared philosophy has proven invaluable as we have helped housing associations adapt to the 'new normal' throughout 2020 and - in the longer term - transform the way their staff collaborate with each other and interact with their tenants. As we approach the end of the year, housing associations across the UK have not only weathered the challenges of COVID-19, but are now well-positioned to turn the challenges represented by the Sector Scorecard into opportunities.
And it is the tenants who will continue to benefit most.
Find out more about the solutions we provided to our Housing Associations customers - read our brochure: Putting technology at the heart of the tenant experience.