Only last week I was on Twitter I was reading a response to a blog post of mine, about organising the calculation of service charges more efficiently. It sounded like a leaseholder being billed amounts for services, that clearly were not transparent and possibly bore no resemblance to what was perceived to be services or value being received.
If you are still doing service charges on the back of an envelope, or slightly more automated in Excel and would like to improve, well you can read that post here.
However, readers of this are probably a bit like me in that I generally receive 'annual statements' from my credit card provider and others, such as my water company, council etc, informing me where all my contributions are spent. It does make interesting reading at times and there are occasional insights, that motivate me to look at other products/services and occasionally change my behaviour.
While as a sector we generally manage to send, or make available statements of account, who actually informs their customers what they have contributed, what it was spent on in their property and how it differs from their general scheme and overall across the RSL/RP?
Easily understood breakdown of where service charges come from are obviously a key part of that, but also information about wider investment in neighbourhood initiatives and improvements, would demonstrate social value was being practically achieved.
If a particular resident arrears were high, it might be useful to make them aware of how the average tenant performs. I.E. 85-95% can generally operate a rent account successfully with minimal issues. Quarterly stats should be easily obtainable.
What about average repairs spend and number logged annually, per property? Can the tenant see and perhaps be informed that the landlord can help, if excessive responsive issues are being reported? Possibly recent capital improvements, are the reason the average for a particular unit has dropped.
What about outlining where training, employment or local health initiatives have been successfully delivered? Most social housing providers are involved in these areas and we should not be hiding what we do and perceived outcomes.
Transparency can be good and not necessary be costly to provide. This is an ideal area to provide in your resident self-service portal. No need for regular glossy brochures and waste.
In terms of showing what social housing is good for, I think it could be part of the fight back, starting with our residents hearts and minds. If RSLs/RPs are failing particular customers or areas, this will shine a light on to it. Also, all residents will have an opportunity to understand where every part of their contributions are going.
Give it a thought, if your systems and data allow you that level of transparency.
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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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