• Rising to the challenge of the Social Housing White Paper – one year on

The Social Housing White Paper put a renewed focus on customer service for housing providers, ensuring they deliver services with stronger engagement and transparency. Almost a year since its publication and as part of Customer Service Week, Liberty’s Transformation and Customer Director George Mallon discusses the role the property services sector has to play in supporting housing providers to meet the White Paper’s requirements.

Whilst the White Paper is for housing associations and landlords, it is clear that the property services sector has an important part to play in supporting housing providers with their response.

We must take the issues and themes it covers very seriously.

As a forward-thinking and people-focused organisation, Liberty has long recognised the need to continuously improve the service we offer and meet with the changing demands of the sector.

The themes that emerged in the White Paper weren’t new concepts to us, which is why we’ve been working closely with clients to adapt services and meet with both the specific requirements and overall spirit of the document.

Customer safety

When it comes to ensuring that customers feel safe in their homes and are able to raise concerns around safety, we know that we have a vital part to play and we want to be open and honest about our performance.

Our safety performance continues to be excellent, providing clients with assurance that our straightforward approach is giving their customers confidence that their gas and electrical appliances are safe. We achieved 100% contractual compliance for clients in August 2020, and regularly achieve 99.999% throughout the year.

This also helps to address the points in the White Paper around tenant satisfaction measures – most client/contractor relationships include regular reviews around performance, but this is where the White Paper has encouraged wider thinking about how we can do more.

Proactive feedback

This includes launching a customer experience programme to proactively seek feedback from our customers. We also operate a text message feedback mechanism that asks several questions on completion of any work we have done. These questions are quick and easy for customers to respond to, and they ensure we can measure our performance using the Net Promoter Methodology (NPS) and UK Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) whilst at the same time benchmarking ourselves within the sector, all with the aim of listening and continuously improving our services.

The success of this approach has seen our NPS consistently over +60 in both our heating and compliance and repairs and maintenance services. Furthermore, we wanted to have a balanced approach to customer feedback, which is why early this year we took ownership of the Liberty Trustpilot page to show how committed we are to customer feedback, as well as to provide another channel for customers to engage directly with us. Our Trustpilot score has increased to 4.1 out of 5 (September 2021) and the feedback this gives us alongside our internal NPS programme has helped us shape our business, putting customers at the heart of everything we do.

Transparency

Social landlords can only ensure greater transparency and openness with their tenants if their contractors are fully transparent about their performance. We ensure that we share all feedback with our clients, as well as using Trustpilot as a way for customers to discuss and rate our service. We listen to all feedback to help us identity areas for improvement, celebrate successes and take accountability when things go wrong.

Starting this year, we will be issuing all our clients with an annual statement that provides our performance data linked back to their tenant satisfaction measures, specific to the contract that we deliver for them. By doing this we’re helping to reinforce the open and honest relationship we have with our clients and supporting them with easy access to the data they need.

Learning from complaints

To strengthen our services further, we have continued to develop our approach to complaint management to support our clients in implementing the complaint handling code published by the Housing Ombudsman last year. Whilst this may come as a surprise to many organisations, linking complaints to every expression of dissatisfaction is a welcome move in my opinion as there is so much valuable data included within complaints that we can grasp and learn from.

At Liberty we turned our approach to complaint management on its head and committed to supporting all of our clients with the complaint handling code by specifically ensuring we respond to all complaints in a timely manner, ensuring each client meets the timescales they have committed to for complaint handling.

One year on

One year on, we continue to welcome the strengthened powers the White Paper will bring to the social housing regulators and the Housing Ombudsman and we are passionate about the role we can play in supporting our clients to rise to the challenge.

Customer care is at the heart of everything we do, and Liberty is committed to supporting our clients and the sector in offering a quality service for all.

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