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Tenant satisfaction surveys: complaints or compliments?

Housing Insight discusses how increased emphasis on tenant satisfaction scores will impact the social housing sector.

 

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by Andrew Marshall, Business Development Manager, Housing Insight

Housing Insight discusses how increased emphasis on tenant satisfaction scores will impact the social housing sector.

A housing association recently spent an entire morning fielding calls from residents who wanted to let them know about a burst water main in the neighbourhood. The first phone call was extremely helpful in bringing the problem to their attention, but all subsequent calls simply repeated information the housing team already knew. Nonetheless, three members of staff each spent around three hours taking calls instead of progressing other work that day.

What has this got to do with tenant satisfaction scores? Here at Housing Insight, we believe that effective two-way communication between landlords and their residents is a significant way in which landlords can look to optimize the tenant satisfaction measures that have recently been introduced by the Regulator of Social Housing. Engaged residents are more likely to contribute to higher satisfaction scores and, by pursuing engagement on a regular rather than ad hoc basis, landlords are more likely to enjoy good relationships with their residents as well as catching any problems early on.

The water main example shows how important two-way communication can be in building strong landlord-resident relationships. While it’s great that so many residents were engaged enough to let the office know about the issue, it’s less good that housing officers effectively lost an entire morning of work because they couldn’t communicate to all their residents that they were already aware of the problem. Had they been able to put out a message via a self-service platform, like PanConnect, everyone would have benefitted.

Reporting household repairs

Let’s consider the value of two-way communication in everyday household repairs. Tenant perception surveys are now required to quantify satisfaction with repairs (TP02), time taken to complete the most recent repair (TP03) and satisfaction that the home is well maintained (TP04). Housing associations that have a robust system for reporting and tracking repairs will undoubtedly see higher tenant satisfaction scores than those that provide their residents with a more ad hoc ‘email or phone us’ approach.

Two-way communication offers an additional benefit in this context. Systems such as the Self-service App in our PanConnect suite allow both the resident and the organisation to track the progress of the repair. The resident can report the issue digitally at any time of day or night, and choose a convenient date and time for the maintenance officer to arrive - which in turn makes them less likely to miss the appointment. Both parties can monitor the app to see whether repairs are being completed in a timely manner. Given that ‘right to repair’ guidelines now give residents the right to request that a different company steps in to complete any outstanding repair work, while also claiming £100 compensation for themselves, an efficient tracking process becomes ever more important for both parties.

Our app also ensures that the response to a repair request is appropriate: for example, a resident who requests help with a spent light bulb may instead be given advice on how to change the bulb

themselves. However, if someone has been tagged on the system as disabled, a maintenance officer could be sent out to change the bulb on their behalf. And if the maintenance officer notices that a particular household has very little food in the kitchen cupboards, they can use the PanConnect Staff App to refer this to the housing team, who then have opportunity to follow up with a food hamper or other support.

Similarly, if the system records that this is the fifth time a front door repair has been requested in as many months, it’s more likely that housing officers will spot the pattern and investigate any potential vulnerabilities.

With the current cost-of-living crisis, housing associations are likely to see an increase in the number of repairs being requested, as more residents may be facing pay cuts or even job losses, making them less able to afford to tackle repairs that they would previously have attended to themselves. This potentially puts more pressure on the system, which in turn makes it more difficult to maintain high tenant satisfaction scores and highlights the importance of effective communication in this area.

A nuanced approach

As the above examples demonstrate, it’s important to remember that every resident is an individual. So, when considering how best to communicate, we’d recommend thinking about how to make sure that residents only receive messages that are relevant to them. Our Self-service App can send messages to just one individual or to a defined geographic area - such as two specific villages, for example. It can be used to promote a local event relevant to a small community or a message can go out to remind all residents that the office will be closed for an extra day due to the King’s coronation.

As soon as residents log in to their app, relevant messages will appear for them to see. And in case of complaints, housing officers can see which messages have been communicated and to whom.

Frequency of surveys

Messaging should be relevant to help residents stay engaged, but frequency of communication is also important. It’s a fact that people are more likely to tell others about poor customer service than they are to praise a good experience. So how can a housing association capture as much positive feedback as possible? We’d suggest building regular online surveys or opportunities for digital feedback to help systematize this type of data collection. In turn, this regular feedback will help to highlight any potential problem areas, which can be tackled before they develop further.

Digital exclusion

If communication is to be digital, then what’s the incentive for residents to start communicating digitally rather than picking up the phone? How can those who are currently digitally excluded be helped to engage with technology that will benefit them? Promoting digital transformation as a means to help optimise tenant satisfaction scores will only work when there is a clear training plan in place for residents.

The solution will look different from one housing association to another, but the need for planning is consistent across all. Those who can engage digitally, will. For those who find it harder, having an easy-to-use system is key. And for those who won’t engage, we would encourage landlords to find

out why: Is there a fear factor? Is a phone call with the housing officer the only conversation that the resident has from one week to the next?

Impact on landlords

Landlords with responsibility for more than 1,000 homes have until summer 2024 to submit their tenant satisfaction data to the regulator for the first time. With the likelihood that these scores will play an increasingly important role in funding decisions going forwards, we would encourage landlords to prioritise and systematise two-way digital communications with their residents as a means of reducing complaints and increasing compliments.

To help you as a Housing Organisation look at different ways of interacting with tenants and thus helping increase your tenant satisfaction scores where appropriate, Housing Insight are running a roadshow free of charge for anyone to attend. This will be held at Mackintosh at the Willows on Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow on Tuesday the 10th of October, running from 10am till 4pm, there will be a series of demonstrations of the PanConnect solutions and a discussion on how we can help increase tenant satisfaction and the opportunity to network.

If you would like to attend, then please contact Andy Marshall on 07944 980287 or email him direct at andrew.marshall@housing-insight.co.uk and he will be happy to reserve you a place.

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