Submitted by Greg Johns CEO on 26th April 2016
One cannot underestimate the impact that new technologies have been able to make in driving greater Value For Money (VFM) for social landlords. Given the current economic and political climate, this impact is all the greater and all the more important, when one considers how tight operating budgets have now become. I find it fascinating too that the evolution of technology still appears to promise even greater future opportunities for enhanced VFM.
As technologies have evolved, the areas of the social landlord’s business that they impact have, of course, changed dramatically. We are all aware that the demand for social housing technology was initially centered around mobile workforce systems. These supported the ubiquitous responsive repairs function, with the software accessed by mobile operatives through ruggedized handheld devices. Then as smartphone and other similar devices spread though the housing association world, the technology followed through and supported a range of new functions in turn. From incomes managers to housing officers and from care givers to surveyors and estate managers, traditional office based roles became increasingly mobile. Naturally enough, all of these newly mobilized operatives sought to use the most relevant data on their phones and tablets when visiting their customers. The technology made this possible.
Beyond this, with the evolution of technology moving ever forward, there were then even more exciting opportunities appearing. From the Smart Housing technologies driven by developments in the Internet of Things (IoT) world, to a wide range of new payment systems, there are many new innovations available across the sector.
Of particular interest, is the way in which the technology in use has now grown far beyond ‘just mobile’. For example, we have now seen a significant growth in the demand for customer self – service options and tenant portals. These are spreading rapidly amongst social landlords as they can provide a superior level of service that’s incredibly convenient to the customer. Customers can now access their landlord’s system 24 /7 using their own phone, tablet or PC at a time that most suits them. The other major benefit, is the cost saving, for whilst a typical personal visit might cost say £16 in real terms and a phone call £6, the cost of handling an issue through a self-service system is typically less than £1. This represents a huge saving and as such meets even the most stringent Value For Money criteria.
As more and more customer-facing functions become mobilised and more staff are able to access more and more information on their mobile devices, the most important thing has become the actual data itself. How the landlord’s data is used to deliver better customer support and drive greater value for money is now a paramount consideration regardless of the technology required to achieve it.
Throughout the enterprise, each different role now has a broader requirement for access to shared data online. As a result, we’ve noticed a significant increase in demand for a 360º view of key data. At my own company, 1st Touch, we have always seen this as a core solution that could significantly streamline key processes, delivering all the key information in an easily accessible onscreen format.
To us, this 360º system should provide the user with an all-round single view of all the KPIs and customer data access points. This ensures that all the information needed to conduct any customer visit is collated in one central easily navigable location. With this cross-functional visibility, tasks which would previously have required numerous customer visits by different role-specific teams can now be resolved in one visit from a staff member operating in a multi-functional role. This significantly reduces the number of customer visits required and therein slashes the costs that are normally associated with conducting these activities separately. In addition, by reducing the number of customer visits, the resources that are freed up can be easily redirected to areas of greater need.
By this means, housing officers can now for example: record and request reactive repairs, update customer profiling information or liaise with the Social Landlord’s Supporting People team. Similarly, responsive repairs operatives could potentially be able to request a gas check, take a rent payment or report related issues such as anti-social behaviour and vandalism.
Senior management should have far superior information to base key decisions upon gaining real, in-depth insight into service efficiency and monitoring KPIs such as productivity and costs more effectively. In my view, all normal mobile functions should be incorporated from estate management, care services, incomes and payment history, social and technical inclusion status, planned maintenance and more.
To meet all these demands, the 1st Touch 360º solution incorporates 360º Workspace, 360º Tenant Portal, 360º Buildings Relationship Management and 360º CRM. This set of applications provides a unique collaboration tool that delivers the ability to request, liaise, communicate, record and raise multiple tasks and activities, in effect giving a single view connecting all systems into one place, from EDRM, ERP, ASB, Asset Management, etc., and even 3rd party agencies like the Benefits Agency.
One of the most exciting new developments is the launch of a Doorstep Appointments module. This new system has been designed to simplify and speed up appointment scheduling by either mobile housing association staff or directly by tenants through a self-service portal and self-service app. Whilst visiting tenants at home, the new module enables any mobile operatives to book appointments through their handheld devices, for services such as: repairs, financial inclusion reviews or care assessments. This eliminates the need for staff to return to the office before attempting to schedule suitable times and dates or spend time getting hold of the appropriate staff to complete an appointment. At 1st Touch, the software, is integrated with our widely acclaimed 360° solution. This enables the operatives to request the best appointment times available, prioritize or rearrange the appointments made, order text reminders, book follow up actions and record related text and voice notes. All of these are visible and accessible through 360º.
Social media has also played a part in the evolution. I’ve always felt that there’s a role for social technologies to be part of this 360º revolution and there has to be room for a collaborative & social toolkit in any such approach. This would allow different workplace colleagues to message, update and post to others on the system and even to identify and communicate with approved suppliers in real time.
In fully exploiting the advantages of technology, such 360º solutions can positively drive Value for Money for social landlords whilst also raising customer service levels significantly. Our own 360º solution helps to achieve all these aims, streamlining customer-facing processes by enabling staff to become multi-functional. When you add the impact of 360º type systems to the other positive changes that technology has brought, such as Doorstep Appointments, then there are many ways in which social landlords can now benefit significantly from the evolution of technology.
Whether, in the longer term, future technology developments will continue to drive VFM quite as much is the subject of debate. However, the chances are, that they just might.
1st Touch helped us to design and build a first rate system that will not only transform what we do but add a whole new positive dimension to the customer experience we deliver.
Director of ICT
The 1st Touch solution ticked all the boxes in respect of our pre-defined criteria. In particular, we liked their approach to implementation and flexibility in delivering
Systems Development Manager