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28 June 2017

Tackling the poverty premium through data sharing #2

This is the second post in our series on 'Tackling the poverty premium through data sharing' - you can read the first blog post in the series here.

It’s almost 18 months since the creation of Pobl. In that time we’ve spent a lot of time considering how we meet future challenges and deliver a fantastic customer experience across all our services.

Central to achieving an excellent service culture is how we use data. Not just the data that we own but the vast amount of personal data held on our customers and communities by others. I know that using and accessing open source data e.g. social media can arouse suspicion in some quarters. However we know that better understanding our customers through data will lead to a better more personalised service for them. I think that this is a concept that more and more people are starting to understand.

At Pobl, both Charter and Gwalia were relatively early adopters of the INSIGHT product and Rental Exchange described by Serena from Coastal Housing in an earlier blog. We were drawn to Rental Exchange and INSIGHT as we knew it could help us achieve a step change in how we use data to improve the customer experience. Helping our tenants to improve their access to cheaper credit was also very important.

One of the most useful tools in INSIGHT helps us identify tenants who are paying rent but have issues repaying debt to third parties. This helps us target advice and support to those who need it most and prevents tenants from falling into rent arrears in the first place. Over 400 of our tenants have been flagged as being financially vulnerable. Many of these tenants will not be in rent arrears but have a debt profile with third parties that suggests that they may soon be unable to cover their rent payments. Getting ahead of the game and focusing money advice services on the people who need it most and at the earliest opportunity is so important. This is particularly important as the roll out of Universal Credit starts to ramp up the pressure on people to manage their money in a way that will be completely new to many people.

The Rental Exchange is allowing our housing customers to build better credit scores and access mainstream lending, in many cases for the first time. This is not hypothetical; the vast majority of our tenants will see their credit rating improve as we continue to use the Rental Exchange. It is helping lift customers out of poverty and we would encourage others in the sector to consider how it could do the same for them.

Our use of INSIGHT and the Rental Exchange has helped create a data hungry culture across POBL with teams using a combination of internal and external data sources to understand more about our customers and the communities we work in. Our culture is starting to move from reactive to predictive thanks to a better relationship with data.

Human beings are surprisingly predictable. If we can understand this predictability we can deliver better services. Our experiences of using data is helping us to think about how we may be able to tailor our services even further in future, using data to inform the best type, timing and level of intervention to make the biggest, most positive differences to the lives of customers.

Andrew Vye, Director of Tai Gwalia
Pobl Group