Gavin Cansfield, chief executive
Some readers will have heard about the ‘big door knock’ that we recently undertook across our properties at settle; colleagues from all our teams personally visited customers to hear their feedback. In total, we met with 420 residents over three days across different age ranges and property types. Why did we do this and what are we doing as a result?
Why the big door knock?
Our purpose at settle is to help our customers stay in their homes comfortably so that they can live the lives they choose. We can’t do that unless we have regular and ongoing conversations with tenants and residents. We already carry out regular surveys with groups of customers, but it was clear that we could do more, especially meeting our residents face-to-face.
Everyone across settle contributes to the experience our customers have of the services we provide, whether directly or in a supporting role. Because the impact isn’t as direct for some colleagues, it’s not always easy for everyone to see the part they play and the impact we can all have. So, I wanted all colleagues to be able to hear first-hand from our residents how we are helping and where we can improve.
What did we do?
We made sure all colleagues were able to get out on the big door knock – including me, our executive team and the chair of our board, Martin Nurse. We paired a frontline neighbourhood worker with someone from a less customer-facing role (HR, IT etc) and emailed residents in advance to say we were planning to visit for an informal chat. Customers were able to say whether they wanted to meet us or preferred not to participate.
Colleagues had five broad questions to discuss with each resident, including what residents would change about settle, any hassles they have with us and understanding when they want to see people from settle face-to-face.
All visits took place over three consecutive days at the start of the week. The Friday afternoon of the same week was set aside to go through the results. I wanted all colleagues to have this time together to reflect on the feedback we were hearing from our residents, to be clear on things we need to improve and where we need to make investments moving forward.
What did customers say?
We heard plenty of feedback on our services which was the main starting point. There is more to be done on our repairs service, making sure residents can get appointments more quickly, and we need to invest more in our blocks of flats, especially the communal areas. But we heard so much more. Making the effort to meet face-to-face was well-received. There were some gripes, but there were also some really moving conversations about how people’s families have grown up in their homes and the platform that has given them to live their lives.
Also, it was clear to us how loneliness affects so many of our customers, especially our older customers, who are often now living alone.
What are we doing as a result?
Although the big door knock was only completed in mid-September, we have already completed 140 follow-up actions identified during our visits. This is just the start, however.
We are looking at how we can get repairs booked in more quickly, through a trial with an external company who can carry out some repairs for us and getting more skilled tradesmen to work in our teams at settle. We are also developing new ways of working, especially in those neighbourhoods where we have more properties. We want to increase our visibility and ability to support communities as well as help with specific issues, like managing the switch to Universal Credit and income changes. This is the heart of our new approach to working in our neighbourhoods – customers told us they want greater reassurance from us and we are ensuring we are there to help.
To help address concerns around loneliness, we are working with local partners to introduce a Compassionate Neighbours model. This will identify those residents in our communities keen to volunteer time to spend with older or less mobile neighbours, supporting them where possible, but mainly offering a friendly face.
Finally, we will be repeating the big door knock again in 2020. Customers and colleagues found it a valuable experience and next year we will include evening visits as well to ensure we meet even more residents.