Nicola Brown, Sales director at Feedback Ferret, talks about her commitment to women in housing and how text analytics can be used to create efficiencies and improve customer experience
Can you tell us a little about yourself and why you joined Feedback Ferret?
I began working in IT specialising in working with public sector organisations and I have continued to do so for nearly 25 years. My career has mainly focused on the Social Housing sector and Housing Associations, working in a variety of roles where I’ve developed a much greater understanding of the housing sector and its challenges.
I’ve been involved in Women in Social Housing (WISH) since 2015 and took on the role of Vice and then Co-Chair of the North West region in 2019, becoming Director of the CIC in 2020.
I was keen to be part of an organisation that mentored and supported women who were working within the housing sector. Being part of an organisation of women, run by women for the benefit of other women and seeing women grow and evolve within the sector is really rewarding.
My interest was sparked in the role at Feedback Ferret because I could see that this was a technical solution to an ever-increasing business problem. How to identify customer dissatisfaction and health and safety risks mentioned by tenants amongst the mountainous volumes of data.
Housing associations are besieged with data on a daily basis and the need to collect, digest and act on the data from tenants and customers is crucial to improving the lives of tenants. This technology is a crucial step towards helping meet those challenges.
What do you think are the key customer experience challenges in the housing sector?
I think there are three core challenges. The first one is the ability of housing associations to meet customers’ expectations, prioritising services from repairs, maintenance it is hard to know where health and safety risks or urgent priorities are and easy to miss urgent comments.
Secondly, listening to customers is made more challenging by the multiple communication channels in which they can communicate and by the sheer volume of the feedback that is collected.
Thirdly, COVID-19 has added another layer of challenges in terms of meeting key services, with backlogs of repairs causing longer term damage to properties and the risk of more serious complaints and increasing negative feedback.
Can you explain to readers what text analytics does?
Simply put, text analytics is the ability of computing to read, decipher and categorise words, sentences, and paragraphs on a large scale. Text analytics means you do not need to manually read CRM data, customer complaints data, customer satisfaction data or any feedback data that comes into the organisation.
“Housing associations are besieged with data on a daily basis and the need to collect, digest, and act on the data from tenants and customers is crucial”
We upload your data and process it through our solution which analyses and then categorises each comment into topics and themes. Reports are produced that show key topics and themes allocating negative and positive sentiment score and alerting you to problems and risks based on clear data evidence.
How can text analytics be applied to the housing sector?
We all know the importance that Housing associations place on safeguarding the health and safety of residents and the last 22 months have shown us that with best endeavours things can still slip through.
We know housing repair teams are doing their upmost to catch up on the backlog of repairs and inspections that are required. We understand that processing the large volumes of incoming feedback from multiple channels is an increasing challenge.
We see Feedback Ferret as part of a solution, signposting resources to where they can have the most impact. It makes sense for example to prioritise the inspection of the property where damp and mould has been reported four times over the past twelve months and the tenants’ husband also has COPD.
Providing this actionable data and alerts, means you can route it within your business to be actioned before a situation escalates to a formal complaint, a serious hazard, or a disrepair claim.
This off the shelf product for the housing sector has been built to understand, collate and intersect feedback comments on all housing sector specific themes. It includes customer satisfaction issues such as estate management, ASB through to contractors and staff helpfulness.
And, most importantly, it covers health and safety topics – pre-programmed to gather data on all the issues named in the HHSRS including damp and mould, tenancy cautions, fire risks, and disrepair.
How does this technology improve efficiencies for landlords?
Feedback Ferret can operate like an extra pair of hands. Scanning the data from your surveys; your CRM for key words that relate to hazardous conditions like damp and mould; or those that relate to disrepair; or any other key words and phrases that you need to know about immediately. We alert you as though you were reading every survey, every comment or note yourselves.
The volume of data and data sources makes it an uphill task to be constantly on, up to date, knowing what the feeling is amongst tenants on a particular estate, if there are problem areas, if a particular repairs team aren’t offering as good a service as the HA would like.
It’s efficient to use technology for this task, we can read and categorise data faster. Meaning you can deploy your humans to the important task of actioning the data, fixing the issues, as well as changing long term business processes if that’s what required.
What does the future look like?
The key services that housing associations provide look set to be even more in demand. The immediate socio-economic pressures aren’t set to ease anytime soon, with the fuel poverty crisis and the on-going effects of COVID-19. Pressures on resources are at peak levels with high demand for affordable housing, and the demands of repairs and maintenance of the exiting housing stock.
Alongside the challenges of delivering net-zero carbon in social housing. Technology can play a key role, facilitating change, alleviating resource issues and in Feedback Ferrets case providing your ears on the ground, always listening.
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