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In my last blog post I suggested that local authorities should think more strategically about CX and take a leaf out of social housing’s book, as a sector they seem to be much further along the citizen experience path. Despite this head-start there is still much more that can be done as disruptive technologies, like CitX, transform the tenant engagement experience.

by Dave Worsell

It’s not surprising the housing sector has this early lead. Organisations like Housemark have advocated the use of structured tenant surveys (e.g. STAR and STAR-T) for years. Although the use of these surveys has been optional, they have still been adopted widely. However, things are about to change with the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) introducing mandatory Tenant Survey requirements as outlined in the Social Housing White Paper. Precise requirements are still unknown but a more robust and standards-based approach is just around the corner.

However, these regulations will likely cover “what and when” data is collected plus some yet to be decided standards for reporting the results. Is this enough? While clearly a step in the right direction, are we risking simply refreshing outdated practices or should we take a more disruptive approach and attempt to unlock the real value in the data that is collected?

Traditional surveys, by nature, provide a snapshot in time. The data is static and the ages quickly with value being lost each passing day. I’d argue that producing a detailed report that quickly gathers dust on a shelf isn’t the best use of the limited budgets and resources that organisations have available.

Having seen a few recent Requests for Proposals (RFP’s), it looks like Housing Associations are continuing to procure the same “tried and tested” survey methods, many costing £40k-£80k per annum depending on the size of the organisation and volume of housing stock. It’s a significant cost if you aren’t maximising the value in the data being collected and using that to drive your decision making effectively.

Why the high cost? These traditional surveys still appear to be the method of choice despite the slow and laborious manual collocation. This is where CitX becomes disruptive and allows you to wrestle back control and address some of the current limitations:

  • Labour-intensive and slow

  • Not all tenant voices are heard (typically the rent payer answers the survey) 

  • Intrusive and doesn’t allow tenants to choose how or when they engage 

  • Survey data shows a limited snapshot in time 

  • Reports stagnant and become siloed

  • Difficult to integrate data and insight from other sources 

  • Hard to put insight into practice and/or operationalise data

  • Lack of collaboration and ability to share insight 

  • Crucial opportunities for early intervention can be missed 

While paper-based and telephone surveys clearly have a vitally important role to play, especially amongst the digitally excluded audience, CitX gives you a far more strategic approach to data collection, channel optimisation, data analytics and exception handling. 

Offline surveys are the catch-all option when cheaper digital channels have been exhausted. While this option is expensive and slow it is often the only way to gather the feedback you need from all target groups and those who are digitally excluded. That said, CitX allows you to prioritise cheaper and more impactful digital channels before more expensive channels should be considered. 

SMS is now by far the most effective digital engagement channel, mobileSQUARED claims over 90% of people read a text message within 3 minutes and response rates are as high as 31% within the first 5 minutes.  Email is still the cheapest digital channel and correct usage (that’s a separate blog post) can achieve 20%+ response rates. In other areas, AI is transforming the use of website chatbots and mobile apps (with integrated survey tools) become ever more popular. Many tenants want flexibility and control over when and how they engage, for many, digital channels are more convenient, less intrusive and faster. 

In my mind, the biggest single limitation of traditional Tenant Survey methods is the inability to gather large volumes of data across multiple sources in real time. Stale data doesn’t give you crucial insight into tenant behaviour or sentiment. It prevents early intervention and stops you providing urgent support where its needed the most. Any delay can have a significant impact on service cost,  organisational reputation but far more importantly, it impacts positive outcomes. 

While many housing providers still procure traditional surveying solutions, I’m also seeing requests for CX/CitX solutions, especially from the bigger social housing groups. Arguably, this disruptive technology offers smaller organisation even better value as it automates some of the more labour-intensive tasks that already stretched teams struggle with. Any investment in CitX should easily be recovered through greater automation and the use of more efficient survey channels.

We’re moving in the right direction but there is still work to do. 

Dave Worsell is founder of @IneoDigital and @digikind, and an investor at @hellolamppost_ He’s also helping @TarmacDev  grow in Europe. You can say hello on Twitter at @dworsell

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