Approximately 45% of social housing in the United Kingdom today is owned by housing associations that provide affordable rented homes to millions of Britons.
While these housing associations provide an essential service, there is a need for the social housing sector to improve standards, demonstrate greater accountability and deliver a better tenant experience.
On the 14th of June 2017, the British public watched televised news in horror as Grenfell Tower – a 24-storey block of flats in North London – became a blazing inferno.
Despite the fire and rescue service’s brave efforts, 72 people lost their lives, and the incident became the deadliest structural fire in the United Kingdom since 1988 and the worst UK residential fire since the Second World War.
Out of the ashes of Grenfell, many questions were raised by the British public and changes were demanded from social housing stakeholders, including landlords, local authorities and housing associations.
More than three years on from the Grenfell disaster, the government’s recently published policy paper entitled ‘The charter for social housing residents: social housing white paper’, looks set be a key driver in improving social housing and outcomes for tenants.
Implications for Housing Associations
The implication of the charter for housing associations and their residents is profound. The charter details what social housing tenants should expect from their housing association or landlord:
To be safe in your home. We will work with industry and landlords to ensure every home is safe and secure.
To know how your landlord is performing, including on repairs, complaints and safety, and how it spends its money, so you can hold it to account.
To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly, with access to a strong ombudsman who will give you swift and fair redress when needed.
To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator and improved consumer standards for tenants.
To have your voice heard by your landlord, for example through regular meetings, scrutiny panels or being on its Board. The government will provide help, if you want it, to give you the tools to ensure your landlord listens.
To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in, with your landlord keeping your home in good repair.
To be supported to take your first step to ownership, so it is a ladder to other opportunities, should your circumstances allow.
Alongside what tenants should expect, the government outlines how it intends to hold landlords and housing associations accountable and what social housing providers must do:
be transparent about their performance and decision-making – so that tenants and the regulator can hold them to account
put things right when they go wrong
listen to tenants through effective engagement
Stakeholders are casting a spotlight on how housing associations ought to act with transparency over their performance and decision-making and how they engage tenants. Listening to tenants is a crucial aspect of driving performance and decision making in any sector where customer satisfaction is paramount.
However, previous attempts by housing associations to listen to tenants have been inconsistent and of little use to regulators. Moreover, the nature of surveys deployed by housing associations in the past under the ‘Status’ framework was said to have generated information of insufficient quality to inform decisions and measure performance.
Alarmingly, tenants perceive surveys as ‘box-ticking’ exercises rather than a genuinely meaningful attempt to gain a reliable picture of tenant satisfaction.
In addition, the state of online reviews within the social housing sector leaves much to be desired. For example, Google reviews for a major housing association in southern England show not only a low review volume but low star ratings overall.
A closer examination of tenant reviews paints a stark picture of dissatisfaction and disdain towards this particular housing association. A noticeable lack of housing association responses to address tenant concerns compounds the housing association’s reputation problems.
Social housing regulators may take a dim view of a housing association failing to respond to tenant complaints online. They may consider it a dereliction of their obligations to ‘listen to tenants through effective engagement’ and ‘put things right when they go wrong’.
Solutions to Housing Associations’ Challenges
What can housing associations do to drive improvements in transparency and decision making? How can housing associations demonstrate to regulators that they engage and listen to their tenants? More importantly, how can housing associations genuinely show efforts to make life better for their tenants?
The answer lies in adopting a technological solution to address various aspects of your housing association’s online reputation and tenant experience.
Reputation customers in the property management sector report a click-through-rate of around 15% for surveys deployed through our platform.
Through Reputation’s sophisticated modular platform, housing associations could design and deploy timely surveys to garner tenant feedback which can be used to inform housing association actions.
Managing Online Feedback
Online and digitised reviews provide the ultimate method of demonstrating high performance to tenants and housing regulators. Moreover, by requesting reviews digitally, housing associations can demonstrate accountability and transparency while enabling tenants to have their voices heard.
Using Reputation’s review solution, housing associations can proactively request, track, manage and respond to tenant reviews within a single dashboard. They can demonstrate effective engagement with tenants by scaling response efforts by using automated responses. They can monitor and analyse review sentiment to truly understand performance across a housing association or at a granular level.
Furthermore, Reputation’s technology is able to publish your internal customer feedback into verified public reviews, improving both review volumes, and star ratings which is strongly correlated with better customer sentiment.
Reputation’s business listings solution enables property management organisations in the private and social housing sectors to ensure their Google My Business (GMB) listings are up-to-date. Housing association managers can ensure that tenants can always find the information they need through zero-click searches. Moreover, effective business listing management delivers 500 times more views to organisations on top of their GMB listings.
What better way to engage tenants than through social media? Through our social media management solution, housing associations and property management firms can update tenants across multiple locations. What’s more, you can drill down into tenant sentiment to better understand your tenants’ views and concerns.
Greystar, a global rental housing leader in 193 markets, used Reputation’s social suite to publish over 100,000 social media posts to tenants. Your housing association could follow in Greystar’s footsteps with Reputation’s social suite to post and listen to tenants everywhere to demonstrate effective engagement to regulators.
The Key To Better Performance
Since Grenfell, housing associations are under greater scrutiny than ever before. Amidst mounting pressure to deliver a better experience for tenants, housing associations should digitise processes to demonstrate transparency and accountability and engage tenants more effectively.
Reputation’s modular platform offers the key to improving your tenants’ experience and in turn, drive performance across the organisation at all levels. To discover more about how Reputation can help your housing association and improve stakeholders’ lives, schedule a demo with one of our experts via the button at the bottom of this page.
About the author: Michael Feeney works in our Mid-Market division helping businesses realise value from their online reputation. His strong background in marketing analytics and Customer Experience makes him a formidable Account Executive at Reputation. When he’s not working, he’s spending time with his wife and two sons in Preston, UK.