The UK housing sector often lags behind other industries when it comes to providing customers with online services. However, digital transformation through straight forward self-serve and automation can help revolutionise housing associations, by improving customer experience, allowing landlords to redeploy resources and giving actionable insight into residents’ needs. One of the biggest challenges that the housing sector faces is that things can be unpredictable. But preparing as much as possible can help you get ahead of common issues. This, and so much more, is possible through digitalisation and automation of your processes. Data is fundamental to solving many of the ongoing day-to-day issues. So,
implementing the right technical structure can help the housing sector build solid foundations to work from.
Over the years, we have seen the pace of digital transformation accelerate across the housing sector. This desire to offer customers more through digital has been catapulted as a result of the pandemic. Forward-thinking housing organisations like MHS Homes—who have embraced digital in light of changing circumstances—are the ones that will be able to excel in the future.
We recently had the pleasure of inviting Ashley Hook, CEO of MHS Homes to be a guest on our first vodcast. Ashley talked about the incredible benefits MHS have reaped from digitally transforming their organisation.
For MHS Homes, it was never about going fully digital. What was important
was that their residents could choose how they could communicate with their landlord. By digitising elements of their customer journey, MHS were able to meet the needs of their residents, as well as give their employees the support they need to do their jobs effectively. Ashley explains,
“We want to have a digital offer that’s easy to use and accessible. So, for people who want to self-serve and transact with us online, they can. This way, we are able to release resource for colleagues to focus on those customers that need greatest support.
“If you think about the challenges that housing associations have, by enabling people to channel switch to digital, we can redivert our resources to where they’re needed most.”
Improving customer experience with automation
Supporting customers was a huge driver for automation at MHS. By equipping staff with the right digital tools, they’ve not only seen a significant impact on their staff’s workload, but they’ve been able to give their customers a better experience. For staff, data has been key to ensuring they can help residents in a more effective and efficient way.
According to Ashley,
“The staff bit is crucial; we’re investing a lot in equipping our staff to be really digitally enabled. So, they can get access to real time data in people’s homes;
then through an automated process, follow-on actions happen straight away. It’s not a case of waiting for the person to return to the office and talk to Peter or Mary. Our digital processes allow that to be passed on to the next stage.”
Ashley explains that initially, MHS was worried about how digitally able their residents are. But the reality is, that majority of people are more digitally capable than they’re given credit for. There are so many aspects of our lives that are digital, whether it’s ordering your groceries or buying a cinema ticket. So many people are online and are already connecting with their day-to-day services through digital means. Having a digital landlord makes so much sense because people now expect to transact in this kind of way.
“When we started our digital transformation journey, we were very worried about people who aren’t digitally connected or enabled, but actually for the vast majority of our customers they live, shop and operate in a digital world. When we think about the number of our customers who have an online account with us— it’s over 60%. In just the course of the pandemic, that’s increased by over 10%. If people go to the cinema or buy tickets, they expect to be able to transact digitally. I think that’s brilliant, because it creates an opportunity for us…They expect the same experience and expect it to be as easy as that when they reach out to their local housing association. That’s a welcomed pressure.”
A more agile approach with digital transformation
For Ashley, MHS’ digital transformation has helped them adopt a more agile approach to how they operate. This has been fundamental in supporting customers quickly, by enabling the right people with the right skills to be available at the right time.
“We’ve made some quite fundamental changes to our operating model. The traditional housing approach is a geographic patch-based model.
This means you have specialist people, like a housing officer, dealing with different neighbourhoods. That’s fine at one level, but it’s not a very agile way to operate. Because if that colleague is on training or holiday, the customer doesn’t get a response.
“So, we changed our business model. We turned that upside down. With the right digital tools, we can look after our customer and enable our workforce to work efficiently. So, whenever a customer contacts us, we can then make sure the right person with the right skills is available at the right time to respond as quickly as possible. There’s no more waiting until the colleague whose geographic responsibility it is comes back from holiday. If a resident needs some assistance, we can help them straight away. So, it really makes a big impact.”
Hear Ashley Hook’s insight in full
If you want to hear more, watch the full vodcast now with Ashley Hook, CEO of MHS Homes, and Futr’s own housing expert, Kitty Hadaway. This is the first vodcast in our new UK Housing Vodcast series, which will offer bite sized insights from housing place shapers, exploring how they have overcome specific digital transformation challenges.
About Ashley Hook
Chief Executive and MHS Homes group Board Trustee
Ashley, a qualified chartered surveyor, was appointed Chief Executive of MHS Homes in July 2009 after working as Housing Director for six years. Ashley has a strong background in housing, having previously worked for various local authorities and housing associations.
About Kitty Hadaway
UK Housing Lead at Futr
A seasoned customer and client loyalty professional, and Futr’s expert on all things social housing and housing customer services. Kitty’s expertise lies in understanding the challenges facing social landlords and translating those into product and service improvements—ensuring Futr’s solutions are optimised for the market.
Your residents need you
Your residents need you more than ever. Staying ahead of your residents’ needs and focussing on what is important and relevant to them is key to adding value and improving resident engagement. We can help you do this with our automation first strategy. Click below to learn more.