Thursday, 20 November 2014

What you need

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“Apps, that's what our tenants need, don’t they? So they can pay their rent and log a repair. Surely we have to get one made up, they look good too, we would look like a trailblazing organisation”.

The above is not quite a de-facto ‘just heard’ conversation, but is assembled from a few strands of some I have heard just recently. Funnily enough I have been thinking about apps recently as I have just upgraded the old ‘dog & bone’ and took the decision to review what apps I moved and which would be in the first two screens.

I have the usual suspects on the first screen of my phone, which reflects my life-style. Jet set, UK wide, hired hand looking at helping social landlords, get the most of their housing investment. I might be exaggerating somewhat there. However, TheTrainline, TubeMap, AroundMe, Maps, Alarm Clock, CoPilotGPS, Laterooms and Evernote all feature, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

After that, it gets a bit more vague. Apps I use occasionally, maybe less than once a month and apps that I downloaded for a short precise purpose. A lot of those can be binned. Many relate to a specific event and vary in stability, completeness, ability to stay open or relevance to the actual event. I wont embarrass anyone, but it seems to me (and others who have had the conversation with me), having a conference app just ticks a box.

No-one really tests it properly and if they did, would the problems be fixed in time anyway?
So I think, having a ‘Me Too’ type app is a very bad idea. It’s an even worse idea at events I generally go to, that is ‘ones that attract Housing IT people’. You know, they will be the worst critics, even screen-shot-ing it and generally posting it around. However good we think we are, the temptation to point the finger is right there, isn’t it?

So back to the original point, are apps worth spending on for social housing tenants/customers?
Well, one for mutual exchanges might be pretty useful. That's an intense activity that you might engage in for a few months. Anything that helped would be really good.
Logging responsive repairs is often mentioned. With the average tenant only logging about 1.7 repairs annually, the cost per transaction could be pretty high, if anyone remembered from one year to the next, they even had an app for it.

Some of the innovation I find most interesting is where an existing app such as Facebook, used a lot within our customer base, could have our landlords widgets embedded within it. I.E. in my FB homepage, I could log a repair, see my balance and initiate a payment via Allpay etc. Possibly that is a place where some efforts could be targeted, returning a relatively low cost per transaction.

I think you will agree, this will encourage engagement, as its simple and convenient. As John Popham puts it, having people go to the effort of switching to a special app, its just like having to switch over from Coronation St, just when the dialogue is getting juicy, to do something boring for 5 mins on the Discovery Channel. Makes you think doesn't it?

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Related Post: Is this the time for your organisation to get dangerous?


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INXS - What You NeedINXS - What You Need.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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  1. Tony, you are 100% right about Facebook. Whether we like it or not, Facebook is the app of choice for a huge amount of people, a trend probably more marked among social housing tenants than in most other sections of the population. Asking Facebook users to use a different app is like asking a Coronation Street viewer to switch to the Discovery Channel in the middle of their favourite programme. They are not going to do it. If it can be done within Facebook it is best done there.

  2. I agree that apps for the sake of apps are pretty pointless, but as a prolific social media user, I shy away from mixing my personal interactions with official ones. I rarely 'friend' colleagues on Facebook, so would I be inclined to link to my bank or my landlord on there? Probably not.

    With the sensitivity of the data, and Facebook's less than perfect record when it comes to privacy, I really wouldn't want to go on there to report local antisocial behaviour or damage to my property that potentially leaves it vulnerable.

    You may not want to switch off from your favourite shows, but if you want to find out the news and weather you there are much better programmes for them than Coronation Street.