LBHF: How digital transformation has improved resident services and engagement

In this Spotlight series, we sat down with the Assistant Director for Housing Management, Glendine Shepherd, from London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.

Glendine has been there for over 16 years and in her current role since 2018. In her joint role of housing solutions and housing management, she works to prevent homelessness across the borough with neighbourhood services also falling under her remit. 

We want to understand how the pandemic impacted the way London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham engaged with its residents, how digital tools helped promote services, its plan for staying connected with residents, and its digital priorities and ambitions. 

How has the pandemic impacted the way you engage with your residents?

Moving services online has had a massive impact on residents. Residents now no longer have to wait all day in the waiting room and moving certain services—like resident meetings— online has improved resident engagement. The success of the borough’s digital transformation is thanks to its collaborative approach to include residents along the digital journey.  Glendine says, 

“Before the pandemic, we had a front of house service where residents could drop in and wait for assistance for temporary accommodation—this often left them waiting all day. As a result of the national lockdowns, we were forced to move these services online. This has actually been a massive step forwards for us because our residents can now book an online appointment which, of course, means that no one is left in our waiting room all day long. 

“While certain services were removed, such as our front of house reception, we really wanted to ensure that our residents still felt as though they could engage with us. To this end, we took our resident meetings online via Zoom and uploaded the recordings to YouTube afterwards.

“This change was a great success. Removing the need to travel to and from the meetings and enabling residents to view them on-demand meant attendance actually increased!

“While there’s been lots of digital transformation across the Council, by including our residents in this journey, we’ve been able to ensure really positive outcomes from our digital advances. 

“By bringing our residents on this digital journey with us and working collaboratively with them, we’ve been able to confidently launch updates to our services in the full knowledge that they are easily accessible for residents of varying digital abilities. This is very important to us.” 

Related reading: Chesterfield Council: Bringing private sector experience to public sector housing transformation

Which digital tools helped you promote your fully remote services?

“The pandemic forced us to update our website; we completely revamped how our residents engage with us online. 

“One thing I’m particularly proud of is the updates we made to our online homelessness service. By making this service more interactive, it’s now far more accessible for our homeless residents to apply for housing with us – which is a great outcome.”

Related reading: Enfield Council: Fostering trust through communication, flexible working and digital tools

What’s the plan moving forward to stay connected with your residents?

Moving forward, London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will be evaluating how it will engage and stay connected with residents. A key part of this decision will involve input from residents and understanding what is best for them. Glendine talks about one of their biggest projects, REAP, and how it will help realise this ambition:

“We’re going to adopt a hybrid service. So as part of this, we have several projects on the go at the moment to explore how we’re going to realise this ambition. 

“The biggest of these projects is called REAP, The Resident Engagement and Access Programme. The focus of this is to explore resident access and the best ways to enable our residents to communicate with us and access our services. 

“As part of REAP, we’re assessing elements of our resident services success as our front of house reception service – we need to decide what’s best for our residents: reopening this service or keeping it 100% digital. Of course, we will be making the decision in consultation with our residents.”

How have your digital ambitions shifted since the pandemic?

Glendine shares how the pandemic has catapulted digital transformation in the borough. However, a big priority is ensuring that residents aren’t digitally excluded and are on the journey with them. 

“The pandemic catapulted digital up the agenda at Hammersmith and Fulham and ultimately improved our resident services. The new buzzword around the Council is ‘digitalisation’! 

“Today, we’re six months into a new two-year transformation programme. But going forwards, as I’ve alluded to a couple of times here, a critical priority within this is ensuring that we don’t digitally exclude any of our residents. The focus of our digital ambitions is to bring our tenants on this journey with us.”

Futr case study: Newham council — Where residents speak 103 languages

Transform resident experience

Learn more about how Futr’s chatbot and live chat solution is helping social landlords transform resident experience.

Learn how councils and local government agencies in the UK are using digital technologies to transform their organisations by following the Spotlight Series of the Futr blog. If you are interested in using government technology to drive digital transformation, get in touch with Futr to see how our live chat and chatbots for councils can help you. 

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