Modular best in breed technologies give housing associations better customer insight

With all of the external disruptors currently conspiring to make social housing management more challenging than it’s ever been, it doesn’t help that housing associations feel wedded to legacy housing management systems that have long outlived their usefulness.

What housing associations need more than anything in 2018 is an agility that has previously eluded them: the ability to view and treat customers more holistically – just as a retailer, hotel, bank or phone company manages its customers. That means the ability to combine case management, arrears management, repairs bookings, and other elements of tenant relationship and contact history, so that housing associations are in a better position to treat people as individuals, and make things happen in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Defaulting to the big, traditional housing systems might have brought a sense of security in the past, on the basis that housing associations were all using purpose-built software to run their operations. But over time they have proved more tying than enabling, preventing a clear line of sight across customer and user experiences, and failing to cater for emerging scenarios, new process innovation, not to mention more efficient ways of using IT budgets.

Becoming more dynamic demands a fresh approach

At Gate One, we do a lot of transformational work with housing associations, involving targeted use of digital innovation. In the process, we’ve observed our clients making key strategic choices to move away from their monolithic housing systems.  It’s quickly becoming a very effective and quick route to greater agility, efficiency and holistic tenant management by letting go of the big, prescribed, slow-to-adapt, once-size-fits-all housing systems. Once housing associations do this, they start to adopt the kinds of technologies used in other markets: best-of-breed, futureproof, cloud-based systems. A shift we’ve seen in the housing sector is a move to CRM products such as CRM Dynamics. Available in the cloud or on premise, it’s quick to implement and configure, intuitive to use, and can be accessed from anywhere – eg via mobile devices.

One of our clients, a large social housing provider in London, is one of a number of housing associations that have made the switch, and it has freed them enormously to be more responsive to customer needs and issues and taking them well on their way to being the more human-centric organisations they say they want to be.

In our client’s case, switching to a mainstream CRM system has enabled the association to process cases much more quickly. Everything is much more transparent: any authorised user can access the full case history when they take a call. And completing a task takes far fewer clicks than it used to. One of the reasons for this is that teams can stay on top of common actions and case categories – if old case types cease to be relevant, they can simply remove them – the software is very easy to configure, without recourse to an external IT expert. By contrast, trying to achieve this with one of the big legacy housing systems would involve a long wait for the software provider to make the adjustments – something that may also incur new cost.

Seeing the bigger picture

Because some of the more recent technology apps keep pace with evolving digital trends, their data extraction and manipulation capabilities are optimised to meet the needs of today’s users; they’re also intuitive to work with. This makes it much easier for case handlers to understand what’s going on, spot trends early and get ahead of emerging issues.

Moving to a more modern technology stack can help reflect current trends too, for example with plug-ins for Twitter so that organisations can track issues through social listening. Coupled with demographic data from your CRM, this enables housing associations to develop targeted campaigns – for instance, if a particular estate or block is found to have a problem with anti-social behaviour, you can start to target tailored preventative interventions in a very localised and efficient way.

Very often, the biggest progress comes from breaking free of old ways of doing things, from questioning why things happen the way they do when, in reality, they probably aren’t working as they should. Just because certain behaviour has become entrenched, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be challenged when needed.

At Gate One, we’ve helped numerous housing associations – including several of the G15 – push back against the status quo and deliver something that’s measurably much better. And since they’ve made the switch, they haven’t looked back. You can read more about the work we’ve done in this area by exploring the case studies on our website. Better still, come and talk to us about what we’re doing, and how we can help you get to where you want to be. Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking that first step, to realise that the positive changes you want to make are actually well within your reach.

UMBAR SHAKIR | CLIENT DIRECTOR

Umbar leads our digital team. She has 17 exciting years’ experience in digital and has delivered end to end digital transformation in a wide range of businesses and sectors, from strategy and portfolio direction to digital innovation and culture change. Umbar is passionate about digital and its power to help organisations and their customers discover new ways of doing business and living their lives.