Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Logical Song

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Increasingly I encounter more and more socialhousing organisations, looking to develop a tight digital strategy, in some cases building one with them. Pretty much all ask, how can we do this well? Who is doing this well, particularly in providing resident omni-channel and increasing channel shift and footfall to digital, rather than more traditional means?

We all see and are used to customer self-service. Daily I bet like me, you use Amazon, online Banking, supermarket and apps for booking travel & hotels. These set our expectations and for my money, this is where the bar is set. Don’t look to your supplier’s ‘out of the box’ systems, they in general look too much like your back-office solution. Strangely, none of the apps listed above, behave like something sat on a desk, near the water cooler.

Taking the dull, techie, logical components from your back office systems however, you can add sparkle and magic, with some web services, to get closer to a real world offering, your residents & customers are more likely to flock to.

Yarlington Housing Group is one forward thinking organisation, I have had the pleasure to have worked with, on a number of occasions. In my book, they tick that box of consistently strive to ‘Do it well’. So, let’s have a look at some of the top tips and silver bullets we can learn from an innovator such as this.

Clear and simple navigation, brilliant signposting for residents & other housing customers
Welcome to MyYarlington
(1)    Get a decent Third party web partner with extensive experience, in and out of the SocialHousing Sector. Proven experience working with a number of popular integrated housing management solutions reduces risk. Hallnet here have used their Active Housing range of products and services ( These are proven at in social housing organisations and are currently been implemented in Guinness, West Lothian Council and Sovini Group, among others.

(2)    Keep it simple (stupid). If you are a diverse go-ahead housing group (like these Somerset guys), use simple colourful disability-friendly icons/design to provide one click direction to your key digital footfall.

(3)    Make it as easy as possible for customers to sign up or get on with what they need to do, as fast as practical. Using Hallnet’s solutions, The Torus Group customers manage to diagnose, request and (DRS) appoint a repair in an average of 90 seconds, which is quicker than over the phone. Slow or inefficient self-service will just drive your customers to your helpline. Not good!
Give your social housing selfservice the commercial feel, get a basket for repairs & other things requested
The 'Basket'

(4)    Size, or rather re-size is everything. I have blogged here about if apps are good, bad or essential. Reality is that most customer Smartphone's these days are in good wifi, 3G/4G coverage. A responsive website, which is still a breeze to use on say an iPhone4 or 5, may provide the flexibility of an app, at a fraction of the cost.

(5)    Make your site work like Amazon, the Trainline or EasyJet. Get a familiar basket, to make it natural for customers to group requests together, or change their mind. Give them what they already are used to and understand. If they have to bother learning how to use your self-service, they just won’t ‘bother’, remember that.  

(6)    Ask your customers, ‘How was it for you’? When did you last do anything you were not asked to rate? Hotels you stay in, that Byron Burger, that Uber journey. On that last one, you rate the driver as well as them rating you! Understand what your customers like and dislike about your self-service and act on that valuable feedback.

Unhelpful self-service can just generate waste calls into your service centre
Don't forget the valuable feedback
(7)    Use Google Analytics or similar to find out how visitors navigate your pages, and act on high numbers of abandoned or in-complete transactions. Undoubtedly, these will translate into waste calls, into your service centre before long.

(8)    Taking account of GDPR, think out of the box, by shaping online services around your customers. Yarlington and Hallnet have clearly applied some serious thought around this. Clearly back end systems need to support the good control of the tenant data journey, conforming to the legal principles of GDPR.

Make your Socialhousing self-service and Omni-Channel GDPR ready
Make selfservice GDPR ready

(9)    Do not assume with your self-service, if you build it, they (your customers that is) will come. Paradoxically, conventional methods such as quarterly updates, mailshots, mention on the service centre line, when call waiting (…did you know you can do most things online, instead of listening to Dire Straits here?). Yarlington are making full use of a launch brochure as well as digital classes. Borrow some clothes from the commercial world to oil the wheels of your customers channel-shift journey. ‘Digital Eagles’ anyone?

(10)     Like in the garden of Eden, from day one, try to have all the ‘low hanging fruit’ on offer to tempt customers in. I.E. Tenant dashboard with notifications alerts, rules based content, privacy opt-ins, view and update personal details, Account section (current/future charges, fast statement generate for UC and other users), End-to-end repairs (‘real’ appointments, cancel, schedule, SMS reminders etc), messages, end tenancy request.

Yarlington who manage over 11k homes, aim to have 80% of transactions occurring online, with plans to reinvest substantial savings into property development and existing property renovation.

Stats from just the first fortnight are promising. 1100 signed up users, 1,650 account page views, 887 views of repair history, Repairs diagnosed and appointed: 200. If each phone call cost £3, it can be seen Yarlington will start to see some dramatic savings.

Chris Reed, who I have worked with on many occasions at Yarlington, was impressed with what has been achieved in a relatively short period. “Not only were Active Housing able to develop a fresh, intuitive and integrated customer portal, they were also extremely approachable and went the extra mile to ensure the project was delivered on time and to budget whilst meeting all our requirements.”

Get in touch with the Hallnet activehousing team 0800-023-9024 -

Checkout the HOMES exhibition, Nov 22-23rd 2017 -
Hallnet, with their Active Housing range of services, are attending the up-coming HOMES exhibition, Nov 22/23rd at London Olympia. Visit them on stand H35. Alternatively, catch them on or on 0800-023-9024. For HOMES they have a number of free passes. Grab one while you can!

Learn more about Yarlington Next-Gen here 

Related Post: Got vacancies? Share them for free here... 


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

Supertramp – The Logical SongSupertramp – The Logical Song.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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