Sunday, 2 March 2014

Learn To Fly

If you do the Twitter thing, follow me at @hotpixUK

It didn't have a runway, but the Belfry hotel just outside Oxford, was the ideal place to learn to fly. If you are involved with social housing that is. I was pleased to get down to the fifth Housing Technology Conference last week, put together by George Grant and the Intelligent Business Company. As usual, the venue was a great choice (if a little of a labyrinth). Even my housing friends and customers from the south east found getting there an easier job than getting into central London. Maybe the NHF should (at last) take note and consider locating out of the capital and Olympia, for coming November IT Manager events. All credit to George, keep up the good work! He even fed the suppliers, something that does not always happen for autumn in West London.

Many thanks too, everyone who stopped me for a chat, great to hear how projects are going and some of the frustrations out there. Integration (or lack of it), inflexibility of applications or suppliers, limitations of project teams/staff, procurement hassles and some shrinking IT budgets, were all the same current issues that housing ICT people chatted with me about.  As usual, feel free to contact me to bounce any details off me.

It was good to see such a variety of presentations, although welfare reform was a recurrent theme. Essential and at times very thought provoking. George Clarke, C4's 'Desperation' man was an inspired choice for opener. We certainly need more positive and refreshing voices like his. It also brought back some of my caravan nightmares from my youth. I still have not been back to Lowestoft to this day (honest!). So much to mention, I will try to focus on what I found interesting and innovative.

Richard Scholes of Hyde had some interesting points to make. One about the outcome of his competitive (comm's project) dialogue, struck a chord with me. Just getting down to a single supplier can have its benefits. Hyde managed to shave nearly a 1/3 from its previous costs. Maybe time spent on CD can always deliver some kind of payback. His internal staff assessment using a panel, was also a clear and fair way of improving the quality of his ICT team. I was nodding and smiling too with his approach of embedding his ICT staff with users and business teams. The perfect way for everyone to interact and understand everyone's pressures. 

Jonathan Creaser of RHP gave a great overview with Tracey Elliott of their progress in supporting multi-channel nudging. Everywhere I go to do consultancy these days, want to channel shift well. RHP seem to really be on top of the game here, even being brave enough to persuade the 'silver surfers' to get online. Full marks to Tracey for answering my questions regarding that truthfully. Not something to be glossed over, digital exclusion. Moreover, an area we need to help and nudge our communities.

One of the most interesting sessions came from Accent Group and The Housing Contact Company. How & why is customer satisfaction important in 2014. In this presentation John Doyle of Housing Contact drew on his experience of gathering customer feedback across a number of industries to question the relevance of speaking to your customers in 2014. Through his unlikely comparison of social housing and the UK automotive retail market he made the point that measuring customer satisfaction whatever your sector, has probably never been as important as a process for organisational improvement.

He noted that although most organisations understand how they go about measuring satisfaction, very few of them really understand why they do it. It had echoes of John Seddon and his Vanguard method. Understand how to measure the outcome, dont just blindly play to the KPIs in use.
John's whole philosophy is to try and speak to everyone to whom you have delivered a service as soon as possible after the event and then to use your dissatisfied customers to tell you what is wrong with your operation. This fairly radical approach was given weight by the testimonial provided by Andrew Kidds of the Accent Group, who has used the service for over 2 years and seen real satisfaction levels improve – ie based on around 33% customer responses taken on the same day or day after as opposed to less than 10% response rates taken weeks later.

At the same time the level of complaints have dropped significantly and last year alone Accent were able to identify and resolve dissatisfaction issues with over 1500 of their tenants. This all ploughs back into an improved customer journey and overall lower numbers of waste and avoidable calls, greater efficiencies.

The examples I have selected from just a few of the presentations, show the quality of what we had here. Take some of these lessons and stories, learn to make your organisation fly. Less suppliers banging on about how brilliant their solutions are and more practical experiences from RSLs. Let's have more of these George, keep them coming!

You can link with me on LinkedIn here - It would be great to connect !

Read on to: Autumn, the conference season. Great time to see what's out there and working.

Foo Fighters - Learn To Fly .

(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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