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What was missing from draft tenant satisfaction measures

Gavin Cansfield, chief executive  The government recently announced it would be consulting this winter on the tenant satisfaction measures that were proposed in November 2020 in the Social Housing White Paper. In preparing for this article, I re-read the White Paper or ‘Charter for Social Housing Residents’, as the paper that sets out the government’s plans for increased consumer regulation is also billed.

We see that the White Paper looks for tenants to be treated with respect, listened to and heard – the only surprise is that government feels it needs legislation to tell us this is what we should be doing.

We work in social housing because we care deeply about helping people in need of good-quality, affordable housing; we need to be proud of our profession and proud to be professionals.  

Tenant consultation

At settle we recently began our own consultation with residents to gauge their views on the proposed tenant satisfaction measures. We asked all our tenants to tell us which of the proposed measures were useful to them and also what else is important to them. 440 responded in total and the results are instructive.

In summary, residents are broadly supportive of the draft measures proposed by the government. However, customers are more concerned with their satisfaction with us than with more traditional measures of landlord performance. In addition, further findings of note included:

  • The obvious divergence from this is the ongoing need to report to residents on how we are maintaining building safety, particularly through tracking performance measures such as compliance with gas and electrical checks
  • An appetite for improved performance and reporting on estate management at a local level, including cleaning of communal areas, fly-tipping and grounds maintenance
  • A desire for a specific performance measure on satisfaction with planned and cyclical maintenance
  • A clear reminder that how colleagues and contractors behave when delivering services affects how residents feel about the services we provide
  • Some clear interest in what we are doing to deliver against the zero-carbon agenda – albeit from a minority of respondents

Next steps for us

As a result of this feedback we are taking a number of steps – including sharing our findings with the Regulator of Social Housing and offering to be involved in the sounding board process to help develop the final tenant satisfaction measures.

First, we are crystal clear on our commitment to delivering customer satisfaction. That we will hear what our residents tell us, act on this and do what it takes to deliver the services they need from us. Continued customer engagement is a crucial part of this work, such as our regular Big Check Ins.

These take place every three months and see all settle colleagues contact customers (either virtually or face-to-face) to ask how they are and to share their recent experience of settle’s services. As a result, we already know that the majority of our customers (75%) feel respected by us – which is a good start. The remaining quarter want us to do more timely repairs and to get things right first time.

Customer engagement team

Second, to ensure findings such as these are accurately collated and acted on, from April we launched settle’s engagement team. This brings together the functions of insight, engagement, continuous improvement and customer resolution into one team. It places the voice of our customers at the centre of business planning, performance and also prepares us well for the increased emphasis on consumer regulation.

As part of this effort, we are working with our Board to review the performance areas we report on and, importantly, how we do this. For instance, we already report on issues such as trust and effort, but are these the most effective measures from a customer perspective – perhaps not. The survey results show us that a measure of overall customer satisfaction would be more useful for residents, along with regular reporting on the specific areas such as building safety, planned maintenance and up-to-date information about the work we are doing in their neighbourhood.

Journey to net zero-carbon

Third, on sustainability we are working towards the government targets that take the country to net zero-carbon by 2050. We are committed to going faster where we can and working in an environmentally sustainable way across all that we do. For instance, we are investing an additional £16m on top of planned expenditure to ensure all our homes are at least EPC C by 2030. The award earlier this year of the SHIFT silver award is evidence of our progress in cutting carbon and customer energy bills through more energy-efficient homes.

Clearly there is much more for us and others to do on tenant satisfaction, but already we know that putting in place the foundations for more effective customer engagement and then acting on its conclusions is a sensible start.

This article was first published in Inside Housing Inside Housing - Comment - What our customers told us was missing from draft tenant satisfaction measures

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