Tenants: what matters most to them?

Finding out what tenants think is increasingly important to housing associations, both because it’s good customer service and as part of the new regulatory framework.

But how do we know we’re asking tenants the right questions? Do housing associations and tenants share the same priorities about what’s important?

United Welsh, a housing association managing almost six thousand properties in South Wales, has been asking itself these questions.

As Customer Engagement Manager Cerian Houston-Jones told me: “In recent years we have been working hard to better understand our tenants’ experience with us through customer journey mapping. We want to know what is important to people at each point through their journey so we can determine if we are delivering what matters to them. What I want to know is: what should we be measuring because it is important to our customers?”

So United Welsh commissioned Acuity to perform a series of surveys. In the initial phase, they will provide a view of the key drivers behind satisfaction levels and the issues which most concern tenants, as well as how satisfied tenants are with the services they provide. Later, the results will inform the organisation’s strategic and operational planning.

“What Matters Most” began in April, and involves a monthly round of 75 phone calls and 12 questions which look at wellbeing and employment aspirations as well as more targeted questions around the HA’s services. Cerian says that by the end of this year they will have more concrete results and will have built a list of current customer priorities which will shape their business and provide the first step towards continuous monitoring.

How feedback influences service delivery

The data is stored on an Acuity-hosted portal which is accessible to the United Welsh team. “I have asked them to consider how they are consuming this and have a think about what else might be missing. What else do they want to know?” says Cerian, adding: “It has some element of flexibility, where the process may change over time – staff need to be open to the story that the feedback is giving you, and also then when you look at your day-to-day work, the reality is going to be about how you are going to access and use the feedback,” she says.

The data will also go on the organisation’s website.

Cerian says that even at this early stage staff are finding the key driver analysis to be really useful “so you can see which areas have the most importance on overall satisfaction. It’s a snapshot of information and shows what’s really important to people. We are looking at how we create our own dashboards for individual teams.”

What are the challenges?

For Cerian, the challenge has been to ensure that staff have had the opportunity to engage in this new approach and be proactive in accessing the valuable information available to them. “As an organisation we have come a long way in changing our thinking towards looking ‘outside in’ and this is another step along the way. We are always trying to champion the customers’ perspective and this helps back that up. It really does provide a more balanced picture of how we are performing overall, which is an independent view as well. It’s not anybody’s version of it, or influenced by anyone else, it is an objective view.”

What is the data telling United Welsh?

It’s very early days, but Cerian says the comments indicate that delivery is what matters to them most of the time “and that’s really encouraging to see. For a lot of people, we are providing what matters to them.” While there haven’t been any big surprises yet, the team will be highlighting complaints in future and using the system to measure the impact service changes make to customers.

Should your organisation be finding out what matters most to your tenants?

We’re keen to support housing associations who wish to develop their surveys and customer journey mapping. We’ve helped United Welsh create a system which meets their needs and those of their customers: if you want to talk about how we can help your organisation, please click here to contact me.


About Simon Williams

Simon Williams (FCIH, MMRS), Associate, Acuity Research & Practice. Acuity is a leading UK research agency providing resident satisfaction, performance benchmarking, learning & development, and consultancy for the social housing sector.
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