When it comes to providing good service, what matters is that issues are resolved quickly and that the service is personal.
In housing we often just do something the same way, because we always have. Just over a year ago we started trialling a new approach to delivering our housing management service. We’ve challenged the way we’ve always done things and moved to a dynamic case working approach.
Traditionally housing officers have a patch and they’re responsible for dealing with any issues within that specified location. This usually means that the housing officer knows everything about that area and its residents in great detail.
While this approach has many positives, what we proposed for our pilot was the idea of working without a patch. We wanted to see what the benefits of allocating work in a different way would be.
So how did we do it?
- We recruited some housing response officers who were the first point of contact for any enquiries that came into the housing team.
- When they were unable to solve a query themselves, housing response officers used CRM to schedule appointments with housing officers based on risk, workloads and location.
- We created a project team involving housing officers meaning that all decisions were transparent and that we could constantly listen to feedback and quickly make changes.
What have we learnt?
- Funnelling queries through a team of housing response officers gives housing officers more time with people who need the extra support. It also means that simple queries are answered quickly – with 2/3 of them being dealt with at this stage and within 2 working days, and with over 95% on the same day.
- Allocating appointments like this makes best use of housing officer specialisms and means we can send the right person to the right place at the right time. They can spend valuable time providing a personal, tailored service to the people who need it most.
- Some of the things we expected to be negative actually weren’t – having more people on one case gave us a more accurate picture of events and helped us to share more difficult problems.
- Working in this way is a real positive for housing officers who benefit from a much fairer and transparent workload across teams. They’re also dealing with more complex cases so we’re investing in more opportunities for learning and development.
- Some of what we do for our customers is driven by them but some of it is driven by our internal processes – so we need to think about the value of these activities and how much time they should take.
- Once you understand what is causing demand you can work around it. We’re now able to plan low-priority work outside of high-demand periods or make sure we’ve got the right resource available in advance.
- It’s a myth that customers want a named housing officer – what they really want is someone who can solve their problem. We haven’t had any complaints and we still offer residents the chance to request a particular person if they want to – but this hasn’t happened very often.
The pilot has been an important step in our journey to becoming a modern, connected business and it will shape our CRM project as it continues. The information we’ve gained from the process is incredibly useful for adjusting our approach and offering a better customer experience in the future. We’ll keep learning so we can develop our service into something really proactive that meets our residents’ future needs.