Is every repair an emergency?

What happens if you remove repairs priorities and simply ask ‘when is convenient?’ Does every repair become an emergency? Does every customer ask for a next day repair?

What happens if you remove repairs priorities and simply ask ‘when is convenient?’ Does every repair become an emergency? Does every customer ask for a next day repair?


In response to customers' needs Housing Solutions (HS) radically overhauled their responsive repair service. Put together in partnership with residents, the new repairs service is designed to specifically meet their needs and expectations.


During consultation we asked 80 customers to assign a priority level to each time in a list of repairs. The result was over 20 different targets. The only conclusion was that the level of inconvenience and difficulty caused by an outstanding repair are individual to each customer and depend on their circumstances.


So Housing Solutions central commitment is simple; to offer convenient appointments, a quick response to emergencies and a single job reference which stays open until the repair is complete to the residents satisfaction.


The Service

There are no more 24 hour, seven-day or 28-day repairs completion deadlines. HS offer a 4hr response time to emergencies – whether these are requested directly by the customer or are required to control a risk to the occupants or building. Other than that it is all about a convenient time. Rather than focus on the priority we simply ask the customer ‘when is convenient’ based on their availability and the problems the fault is causing them. The customer service advisor and the customer agree on a time that works for both parties, be that the next day, the next week or the next month.


The repairs team increased the number of evening and Saturday morning appointment slots, and if a member of our repairs team could not fix the fault on the first visit they would immediately book a convenient follow-up appointment from site. The customer would keep the same job number too, just as when an emergency 'make safe' has been carried out but the fault not repaired. An electronic customer sign-off on PDAs empowered the customer to decide when the repair was finished.


The Results

The lead measure of the change was always going to be customer satisfaction. Since the change process started in 2008 the number of residents reporting satisfaction in post-completion surveys has increased by 8%. STATUS survey results reinforce the day to day results showing an overall increase in satisfaction with repairs and maintenance of 8%.


Interestingly an average repair takes 1.5 days less to complete than under the previous priority-based system. We are keeping over 99% of the appointments we make and 11% more of our customers are satisfied with the time taken to start work.    


Have we had an increase in emergency repairs? No. The number of emergencies has actually dropped.


So What Have we Learnt?

That customer lead service provision works.


It took time and effort to move away from the structured system of priorities and some repairs were carried out quicker than they needed to be, but our experience is that customers haven’t started requesting everything same or next day and are quite happy to agree something that works for both parties. But we had to give the customer and the customer service advisor the freedom to agree between them when the repair should be completed and honour the agreements made.  In any cases where the flexibility is being misused it is important to discuss this with the customer afterwards and take action to address the situation if it becomes a regular occurrence.


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