Why customer satisfaction matters
“If the social housing sector wants to rethink customer satisfaction, it needs to move beyond the numbers by adopting a new approach to its relationship with its data, and with its customers.”
Customer service is at the centre of all organisations, with the aim of each touchpoint being that they are useful, efficient communications delivered with understanding. From there, being able to measure the level of service then presents some challenges.
Customer satisfaction is a core delivery measure and knowing how attuned your service is to your customers can only be achieved by asking them. General customer satisfaction software might be able to fulfil some of your requirements, yet these tools may not meet the specialist insights needed for housing services.
STAR and Local Authorities
Rapid change has been seen across the housing sector in the past few years, with LAs responding to legislation reform, austerity and the housing crisis. Prevention now centres on the premise that LAs work with the homeless rather than for the homeless.
In December 2018, following local authority feedback, we launched STAR (Satisfaction, Tracking and Review) to provide tailored surveys for housing associations and local authorities (LAs).Within the first two days of us launching STAR over half of LAs using PRAH signed up to use it, reaffirming the need for this tool within the sector.
STAR gives tenants a voice throughout the service that means LA officers can glean unique insights into their perspective. By collecting data at key stages throughout the process, the areas in which customers feel most vulnerable can be highlighted and internal service improvement can then be made in line with this. Not only this, but as those with budgetary responsibilities will know, conducting customer research is timely and costly; what we provide enables that time and effort to be concentrated on building solutions instead. The data is collated automatically, meaning that local authority officers and managers can focus on understanding insights and deploying solutions for their customers.
The questions included within STAR have been put together by our practitioner partners, NPSS (National Practitioner Support Service), in line with the requirements under the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA).
Our benchmarking tool is one of the key capabilities embedded into the service; this enables organisations to establish a framework to compare and measure homelessness services with other LAs and Housing Associations (HAs) in the Housing Jigsaw community. Benchmarking is a widely-used business tool for comparing processes and performance metrics to industry bests. The factors typically measured are cost, time and quality (which can be understood as satisfaction).
Benchmarking in the housing sector differs to many other businesses; it is not about competition or ranking yourself against others. Usually, tenants don’t have a choice in which LA or HA they work with. What benchmarking means is sharing what’s working for you and learning from others what works for them, encouraging sector-wide best-practice, whilst undertaking work that has real impact in people’s lives.
“STAR provides reassurance to customers that their views were being heard and would enable local authorities to track and report back on customer satisfaction.” CEO, David Grint
Writing for the National Housing Federation, Paul Edwards, Director for Corporate Services for HouseMark, states that, “Comparison also helps you assess what’s possible and frames the scale of future ambitions. If the best performers are delivering impressive results, you can set your targets knowing what could be realistically achieved.”Benchmarking has the potential to be deployed to help your organisation embrace a ‘growth mindset’, whereby you drive innovation within your organisation by taking inspiration and finding lessons from others that share the same values and goals as you do.
Edwards also makes the point that, “Comparison analysis has traditionally supported performance management by looking back – assessing historic performance, taking learning, identifying opportunities for improvement by doing something different to what you have already done. However, the objective of performance management should be to drive strategic and operational decision-making to influence the future. New analytics and technology provide the opportunities to develop new and innovative approaches to utilising data and comparison analysis.”
Comparisons help organisations envisage future accomplishments with the ability to set goals based realistically on what their peers have achieved. Tracking customer satisfaction alongside other organisations allows LAs to determine whether changes are due to macro drivers applicable sector-wide or are specific to locality, or business practices. What should drive this is how you measure up in your tenants’ expectations.
Our aim with STAR is to enable you to bring tailored customer satisfaction to the centre of your processes, thereby ensuring that the customer is front of mind throughout the full scope of service delivery.