You wouldn’t think a text message booking a taxi would transform a housing repair service, but that is exactly how Wolverhampton Homes was inspired to improve its housing repair service.
It all started with a chance visit to a local taxi firm. The call handling was polite, courteous and to the point: name, where from, where to, what time, and how many? On its way! Then a text when the taxi is waiting outside.
The days are long gone when housing repairs were about fixing a leaking tap then being on our way. Our repairs service goes way beyond that; offering advice and signposting support on issues ranging from children and vulnerable people safeguarding to welfare reform and rent arrears.
Our Repairs Plus vision is taking housing repairs as an operational procedure and embedding it into the very heart of what our company stands for; quality service, better homes and making a real difference to our local community. That is the challenge our Repairs Plus vision is looking to meet.
More of our customers are using online services, and we know that thousands of local people are struggling with the new welfare reforms. The challenge for us was to design a repairs service which embraced technology and delivered a service which added value.
We looked at our customer profiling and asked how our "customer of the future" would want to interact with us; 50% of our tenants have access to the internet, 29% have Smart Phones and 66% of those use social networks. Nearly 3,000 tenants are now using our Do-it-Online service to pay their rent, manage their account and track and report their repairs.
Tenants receive texts to confirm appointments, a reminder the day before and a text message to say the trade operative is on their way.
By improving our online services and embracing text messaging technologies we expect the numbers of phone calls we take to fall over time, allowing contact centre staff to help and support our more vulnerable tenants.
In a city with high unemployment and higher than average levels of deprivation, shifting residents online potentially risks them becoming more isolated from the other services we offer.
Repairs have a big part to play in helping us overcome this. We carry out over 60,000 repairs a year; an opportunity not to be missed. When we visit we make it count – our trades colleagues can be the eyes and ears of front line services.
For many tenants, their only face-to-face contact with our staff will be when our repairs teams visit, so all trade colleagues have exactly the same customer service training as every other member of staff in the company.
But it is not just about fixing things. Our repairs teams are trained to identify, report and signpost tenants on issues ranging from safeguarding, domestic violence, drug use, child protection and even combating extremism.
We’ve also been able to boost our repairs service through our multi-award winning Learning Employment and Achievement Programme (LEAP). This apprenticeship programme has given valuable skills and training to long-term unemployed tenants. Some go on to permanent roles and have been able to boost their skill-set and increase our capacity to provide a more reactive service.
Our on-demand service was introduced to meet increased customer expectation and to provide a better, more holistic service and something extra; something beyond what you would expect from a repairs service.
Repairs are not just about fixing things, it is about our service, it is about exceeding expectation – it is about our tenants!