Why do housing associations continue to face digital challenges?
Daniel Lewis is Digital Marketing and Creative Services Director at Cardiff-based marketing agency Spindogs. Here, he explores ways housing associations in Wales can take advantage of their digital resources.
In a sector where the demand far outpaces supply, and as the cost of living continues to rise in the UK, housing associations are under increasing pressure to deliver affordable housing.
Housing associations, first and foremost however, are often experiencing shared challenges of slow moving IT systems and a lack of understanding on the right solutions that will resonate with tenants. Tenants meanwhile can be resistant to change, whether through lacking fundamental IT skills, facing language barriers, or simply a preference for traditional means of interaction.
Then swiftly follows a fear of failure (will the investment deliver expected results?), whether new functionality can stand the test of time and how digital uptake amongst internal teams can be encouraged after the project is completed.
Technological capabilities and tenant expectations are rapidly changing, placing even greater pressures on housing associations. Increased demands create an increased need to invest in new technologies to better service users.
What can making the digital shift help deliver?
When housing associations get digital ‘right’ they have been able to achieve more efficient service delivery, a better, more convenient tenant experience, increased job satisfaction for staff and savings that can demonstrate value for money.
The digital shift is not only about building new websites, but improving operations; creating more effective communication channels with tenants, educating and upskilling where required, and driving efficiency through closer operational relationships with suppliers and facilities management teams.
An important checklist for getting started with digital
Before getting started, there are six key questions to ask your Board to formulate a digital strategy:
- What will it take to meet our customers’ expectations in a digital world?
- What is the readiness and capability of our customers to respond to digital transformation?
- Do our business plans reflect the full potential of technology to improve our performance?
- Is our portfolio of technology investments aligned with opportunities and threats?
- Do we have the capabilities required to deliver value from the technologies?
- Who is accountable for digital and how do we hold them to account?
- Are we comfortable with our level of digital risk?
Once these questions have been answered it’s important to consider the key areas of tech that can help transform housing associations.
What tech is available to truly support housing associations?
While the application, choice and opportunity of digital technologies is almost infinite, there are some key areas you should consider as part of digital transformation, including:
- Offers the ability to free up staff to take on more meaningful roles
- Can reduce the amount of paperwork and manual processes required
- Enables staff to be more available to provide more support to tenants and the business
- Moves transaction processes online, offering significant cost savings - online payments are 20 times cheaper than phone transactions and 50 times cheaper than face-to-face
- Creates opportunities for ‘always-on’ communications and interactions with customers.
Data Analysis & Record Keeping:k taking customer data and records online
- Provides greater security for keeping online records safe and secure
- Offers excellent opportunities for better data analysis and upkeep
- Improves access to edit as required for up-to-date, easy to manage information
- Ensures higher quality business intelligence for efficient and effective decision-making.
Better Connections: with devices and smart metres
- Better identifies how people are using their accommodation
- Allows providers to alter services or diagnose problems, such as heating, in real-time
- Helps repairs or replacements to be commissioned quicker to minimise costs and disruption.
Improved Customer Service
- Makes help and advice available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the use of a knowledge portal and accessible online account information
- Removes customer restrictions when completing actions online to resolve issues or speak with the correct department
- Delivers considerable reputational benefits, impacting positively and directly on brand experience
- Opens up communication channels between housing associations and tenants to become far more easily accessible.
A Remote Workforce
- Allows housing association teams to work remotely through cloud technologies
- Reduces the need for multiple physical office locations
- Enables staff to be more connected with those that need help the most
- Ensures less time spent on mundane transactions
- Focuses the organisation on becoming more human with greater face-to-face interactions.
Making a shift to digital is certainly not a quick overnight fix but the benefits on offer are significant. Housing associations have many shared challenges and the right digital partner will be well placed to identify and address these. Demand will only continue to far outpace supply, especially as the cost of living continues to rise in the UK with housing associations needing to desperately find more sustainable, cost effective solutions to deliver affordable housing.
If you want to know more on how digital can transform your business, take a look at our free whitepapers, with everything from how to create a brand with impact, which CMS you should choose and how to create a powerful digital marketing strategy to our dedicated Housing association content.