Social housing property maintenance has been a hot topic for housing executives for a while now, and a September 2021 ITV investigation drew new attention to the issue.
The investigation called out landlords not just for the conditions of their units, but for slow and frustrating customer service as well. Residents interviewed by ITV complained of poor record-keeping, lack of communication, unfriendly service, and technicians that show up without notice — or worse, don’t show up at all.
Localz recently partnered with Inside Housing to present a webinar on the topic of social housing repairs and maintenance.
The webinar featured subject-matter experts that provided the inside scoop on the state of maintenance requests in social housing and how landlords can improve the standard of service for their residents.
In this article, we’ll share some of the social housing statistics provided by these experts.
Social housing repairs and maintenance statistics
Jennifer Ryans, Head of Dispute Resolution for the Housing Ombudsman Service (HOS), shared the following statistics about the state of repairs and maintenance in social housing:
- In 2021-22, HOS received 65% more enquiries and complaints compared to the previous year
- HOS issued 2,614 formal decisions in 2021-22
- 29 of these decisions included findings of severe maladministration
- 34% of cases that were formally investigated were related to repairs, and repairs was the single largest category of complaints
- HOS resolves 80% of complaints without proceeding to a formal investigation
- HOS issued 172 repair orders in 2021-22, up from 116 the previous year
In 2021-22, HOS received 65% more enquiries and complaints compared to the previous year
Our webinar was well-attended by social housing professionals. We conducted an informal poll of webinar attendees, which revealed the following:
- 54% of social housing professionals have only “just begun to think about” using digital apps to improve customer service
- 36% of social housing professionals say residents are able to book a repair on an app and receive regular updates
Key issues observed by the Housing Ombudsman
Ryans cited a few major issue categories that come up again and again in her work solving disputes between residents and landlords.
Inadequate record keeping
The HOS often finds the source of disputes to be poor record-keeping by landlords. Residents complain of incomplete, outdated, or missing maintenance logs. Many landlords still rely on verbal agreements with residents, which limits accountability on both sides and leads to issues with dispute resolution.
Missed and unproductive appointments
Social housing residents are often unsatisfied with their technicians on the day of service. Common complaints in this category include technicians not arriving on time, not arriving at all, or lacking the skills and equipment to finish the job.
Poor communication or lack of follow up
Ryans identified poor communication as a major source of disputes between residents and landlords. Residents complain that landlords have failed to manage expectations or confirm whether jobs have been completed. In addition, landlords involved in disputes often don’t bother checking in on the satisfaction of their residents or asking for feedback.
How to improve the standard of service: key stats
During the webinar, Dean Mahoney, Sales Director at Localz, shared how using customer engagement software can help reduce complaints and address the key issues uncovered by the HOS.
Customer engagement software helps social housing landlords increase operational efficiency by providing shorter service windows, self-scheduling options, and proactively communicating arrival times with residents. Localz software even allows residents to track their technician’s location on a map.
By providing greater transparency, landlords that utilise this software reduce the number of no-access appointments and the volume of calls to their call centres chasing up on technicians.
Mahoney shared the following statistics:
- Localz customers have experienced a 37% reduction in no-access visits
- Localz customers have experienced a 40% reduction in chase calls on the day of service
Customer engagement software also helps landlords improve customer satisfaction. One key way to accomplish this is to automate the feedback process, then quickly resolve any outstanding issues.
Localz provides an option to send a feedback prompt immediately following the service appointment. Mahoney cited the following statistics to show why this is important:
- According to Localz data, 35% of feedback is gathered in the first five minutes following completion of the appointment
- 80% of negative feedback is gathered in this same time frame
- Localz customers that respond to negative feedback within 30 minutes have increased CSAT by 12 points
Case study: Fairhive Homes
Fairhive Homes Limited is a Registered Social Landlord managing around 8,500 homes. In the webinar, Fairhive’s Assistant Director of Property Andrew Rysdale shared some key statistics about their recent experiences with social housing property maintenance.
According to Rysdale, the number of repair and maintenance complaints doubled from 2020 to 2021 after Fairhive implemented new complaints handling codes.
During the pandemic, the backlog of repairs also increased dramatically due to staffing and supply shortages. As a result, residents experienced longer wait times and reduced call-back rates.
Rysdale launched several initiatives to address these issues. One of these initiatives was My HomeHub, a self-service customer portal designed to improve efficiency and customer experience.
My Home Hub included modules from Localz customer engagement software, including:
- Track My Appointment, which enables real-time tracking of technician location and proactive communication of arrival time
- Rate My Experience, which enables instant feedback collection and replaced slow telephone-based surveys
As a result of this initiative, Fairhive experienced a significant drop in no-access appointments. In addition, they’re able to track customer satisfaction more closely, and quickly address issues for any residents who are still dissatisfied following their appointments.
Customer satisfaction at Fairhive is now consistently between 90-95%.