This Customer Service Week, Martyn Hague, Director of Neighbourhoods at ForHousing, explains how the landlord is focussing on the powers of listening and making some major changes to how it thinks about complaints…
Listening more than you speak is a formula for success in most aspects of life.
During what has undoubtedly been a very strange and often difficult year, one thing that has become clear is the power of listening to each other intently and communicating in new ways, as we’ve undergone seismic changes in how society works.
Listening to tenants is the key to delivering excellent customer service. If we’re not listening to their views, how do we know what services we should be providing or if we’re hitting the right standards? How do we know we’re making a difference where it matters most?
Everything we do is for the good of tenants. We have to listen to their voices, hear what they are saying, and then act appropriately – whether that feedback is positive or negative.
“Complaints can be highly emotive and personal, and historically they carry negative connotations for staff – we need to change the way we think about them”
In a world where success is driven by statistics, it’s perhaps surprising to say we welcome complaints and actively encourage tenants to express any dissatisfaction they may feel.
Complaints should be seen as a positive opportunity to gather intelligence and insight that will help us improve.
That’s one of the reasons ForHousing has overhauled its complaints process.
We’re introducing a new system with lots of changes that will offer tenants a quicker resolution time and the chance to negotiate an offer that they’re comfortable with.
We really want to reduce the time it takes to resolve a complaint. This is better for both the tenant and our own teams – we have an ambitious target of reducing the process from an average of 88 days to 17 working days.
One person will handle a complaint from start to finish – so people are not passed from department to department – meaning we will have greater accountability for mistakes.
We’ll also be speaking to tenants much more rather than relying on letters.
“We use the term redress rather than complaint to demonstrate we’re working toward fixing a situation, rather than having to deal with something in a negative way”
Tenants will experience a quicker, smoother process, and we will make sure they are satisfied with the result.
Our aim is that the new process will help further improve relationships between tenants and the organisation.
The data we’ll be collecting from complaints will be used to develop innovative, predictive analytics, meaning we’ll be able to anticipate any upcoming problems and look at the resolutions most likely to be effective.
Making such significant changes to a process can be a challenge. Complaints can be highly emotive and sometimes personal, and historically they carry negative connotations for staff. We need to change the way we think about them.
We’re working to help teams see complaints as positive. Internally, we use the term ‘redress’ rather than ‘complaint’ to demonstrate that we’re working toward fixing a situation, rather than having to deal with something in a negative way.
For us, redress comprises of the 4Rs:
- Offering and delivering a suitable remedy
- Recognising the impact the issue has had
- Providing reassurance that the breakdown or failure will not happen again
- Where appropriate, offering recompense that compensates the complainant for any harm, cost or inconvenience
We hope this demonstrates that we’re not just looking for a quick fix to a problem. We empathise with tenants who are dissatisfied, and we will work hard to ensure we learn from it.
How landlords can improve customer services and relationships with tenants was a big part of the Social Housing Green Paper, and likely will be a part of the white paper when it is announced.
But that’s not the reason we’ve chosen to make these changes. We want the very best for tenants: their needs are always at the heart of what we do.
Main image: Martyn Hague, Director of Neighbourhoods, ForHousing
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