It used to be accepted wisdom that a wide-ranging satisfaction survey every two or three years was the best way to keep tabs on what your tenants are thinking. This remains best practice, but times are changing: some landlords have stopped doing them altogether (bad idea), while some are doing them yearly. That might be the gold standard – but probably not for the smallest housing associations.
As always, there’s another, effective option: do smaller surveys, more often.
Quite a few associations have moved towards this approach, ditching paper in favour of phone or online questioning and focusing on the most relevant and current operational issues accompanied by some tracker questions to help you keep an eye on underlying issues.
Here’s the sort of information you might get from doing a quarterly survey for a year, with lots of useful material for a landlord to ponder and take action on.
So, is this approach for you?
Let’s get the cons out of the way: the smallest associations might find this tricky, either on grounds of cost, resourcing or having enough tenants to take part in the research. But for everyone else – and perhaps even some of the smaller organisations – the list of potential benefits is far longer.
Asking residents how things are going more regularly means that the landlord is more in touch with them and that the impact of any service changes can be seen rapidly. Emerging issues can also be flagged up fast, and, overall, the landlord can get a better picture of customer satisfaction.
It is possible to go even further – telephone surveys enable trainer interviewers to probe problem areas and capture the comments of tenants to give a clearer understanding of where the issues lie. With the right resources, you can take this a step further, to customer recovery, flagging up dissatisfied tenants or those who want a call back from their landlord.
What you need to put in – and what you could get out
As always, some thought and planning is needed to make these systems work their best. It’s important to make the surveys representative, so quotas of tenants will be required. The arrangement has to fit and work with any other feedback mechanisms being used. And you might want to include different topics and issues in each quarter’s questions, to get snapshots of some areas.
Do all this and you can be rewarded with an online dashboard of what your tenants think, accessible to your staff, with charts, trends and coding of text comments so that you can see exactly what’s happening.
I’m being asked more and more to help smaller associations create this type of survey cycle, and they are generally very pleased with the results they are getting. If this is something you’d like to investigate, do please get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss the possibilities.