Sam Leigh looks at the future of customers and services off the back of the Social Housing Green Paper.
At Yarlington, the customer is at the heart of everything we do. To better meet our customers’ needs, in April 2017 we launched our corporate strategy Next-Gen. Next-Gen commits us to building more affordable homes and providing customers a more effective and efficient service.
Over the last 18 months Yarlington has undergone a significant business transformation across all of its service delivery, which has seen us develop a new operating model across the business to better reflect the needs of our customers.
As we began to implement this new way of working, the government published the long-awaited Social Housing Green Paper which proposes to rebalance the relationship between housing associations and their customers, something Yarlington is proud to have already progressed.
As part of Yarlington’s new operating model, we created CCE (Customer, Communities and Enterprise) which will not only deliver great customer services, but ensure we work in partnership with our customers and ensure that the Voice of the Customer is central to our business. CCE is there to give all customers the opportunity to shape the way we work and reach their potential through the delivery of additional help and support as well as significant investment into our communities. Not only that, Yarlington’s CCE is already implementing recommendations made in the green paper.
All our homes are of a safe and decent standard. Yarlington’s highest priority is to provide a property that is safe, secure and clean in a timely and cost-effect manner. However, when a property is vacated (void), we spend a lot of time and money bringing it back to a suitable standard.
We recently introduced a new voids process where we carry out repairs, maintenance and fully redecorate each property. Not only does this see all our properties of a high quality, it aims to encourage customers to maintain their property to the same standard throughout their tenancy, meaning less work and cost to us when vacated.
Focusing on the customer’s voice, Yarlington has centralised its complaints system to give our customers access to a swift, transparent and quality complaints process. Yarlington has a dedicated customer engagement team who support our customers when things do go quite right. Our staff are fully trained and consistent, with each customer having a dedicated staff member who deals with their complaint from beginning to end, keeping them informed of actions taken within a clear, robust timeline. Once an issue is resolved, we don’t stop there, we look at the root cause, enabling us to learn from our mistakes and use feedback to improve.
Our new complaints and feedback system feeds into a wider Yarlington Experience.
The Yarlington Experience is a fresh and innovative approach to resident engagement and participation. Through five different platforms, Yarlington Experience invites customers to share their ideas and shape the way we work now and into the future, whilst remaining absolutely transparent.
In addition to our new complaints and feedback process, customers can join our scrutiny group Challenge and Change to review our current services; customers can share their ideas through our innovation forum; access important news and local events on My Yarlington, and through consultations, customers can have their say on proposed changes to services.
Our last consultation on complaints saw almost 600 customers get involved and resulted in us centralising the complaints system as explained above.
Not only does Yarlington offer effective engagement, we empower our residents to help shape our services and give them the freedom to manage their own account.
As part of Next-Gen, Yarlington digitised its services and in September 2017, launched My Yarlington. My Yarlington provides our customers with the freedom and flexibility to book repairs when convenient for them, make payments and keep in touch with us online 24/7. To date, we have over 7,500 customers using My Yarlington and continue to add more features.
For those who need support getting online, we provide bespoke access through free digital workshops, loaned devices through our Loan IT scheme and a digi-bar at our head office.
At Yarlington, we don’t only provide great services and empower our residents to influence the way we work, we are also keen to tackle stigma, ensuring our customers are treated fairly, actively engage in communities and access the opportunity to reach their potential.
Through social choice, we go above what’s required of a landlord, supporting customers into employment through our subsidiary Inspired to Achieve; providing access to financial support and advice; tackling isolation and providing customers affordable ways to get onto the housing ladder through tenures such as shared ownership.
To support the communities our customers live in, our Enterprise Investment helps fund local businesses and initiatives, helping build and sustain great places to live and thrive. This year, we have half a million to invest; to date we have helped fund a new community centre in one of the UK’s most deprived areas and pay for two staff members at Citizens Advice, offering customers free, impartial debt advice.
Just 18 months into Next-Gen, we are proud to be in a position to deliver even better customer services, engage with our customers in more ways than ever before and empowering customers to reach their potential.
We haven’t stopped there though; we are absolutely committed to working more in partnership with customers and providing even more ways to access services and shape the way we work. Over the next year we have plans to provide each community a dedicated partner to focus on the needs and priorities of specific communities, be clear with customers about what they can expect from us and what we expect from them and streamline our survey process so customers can give input on things that matter to them.
We have also launched the new ‘Voice of Customer’, This is a new forum that is totally dedicated to our customers that is there to monitor, evaluate and respond to all elements of customer and community service delivery. This is a really exciting and innovative approach to customer participation where we will be looking to invite community leaders into the business and work with us in partnership to build and agree community plans that will deliver bespoke services back into each community. There is much more to come on the new ‘Voice of the Customer’ so please watch out for more news.
Over the last year we have achieved an incredible amount, transforming our services and ensuring the right people and processes are in place to deliver, empower our customers and provide opportunities to reach their potential. As we continue implementing new ways of working we look forward to seeing how the green paper evolves and how we can partner with our customers even more.
Executive Director of Customers, Communities and Enterprise