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Why tenant satisfaction is more relevant than ever

A recent article in Inside Housing magazine posed an important question: ‘Tenant satisfaction: is it still relevant?’.

My instinctive reaction – and indeed that of many housing professionals and tenants – is ‘yes, of course’. However, the point Inside Housing was making was: how much of a priority is tenant satisfaction, given the other pressures social landlords are facing?

The article highlighted that the English regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency, is now clearly prioritising landlords to become more efficient in order to build more homes. It asks whether an approach that invests valuable time and resources in seeking ever-higher tenant satisfaction scores is an expensive luxury.

In response to this, I would say the following. First, chasing hard for minuscule improvements in already stellar tenant satisfaction measures is certainly a false economy. But I stick to the core principle that satisfied tenants are a good thing.

More than this, satisfied tenants are good for business. Satisfied tenants pay their rent, are less inclined to move and, when they do, are more likely to leave their property in a decent condition, allowing for quicker relets.

Second, it is eminently possible to find smarter ways to work that save money, while continuing to provide a decent service. The article highlighted a number of instances where social landlords are doing precisely this.

While this is sound business practice, I would argue more can be done. Which brings me to my third point: a great service can be provided, for less.

You may chortle sceptically at this, but it is true. Our clients are the living, breathing proof!

For instance, we have just passed the two-year anniversary of our Total Asset Management contract with Dacorum Borough Council, maintaining and repairing its 10,500 homes.

In this time our smarter approach to the use of IT and data analysis to inform investment decisions has allowed us to generate savings and additional income of £1.8 million for Dacorum. Meanwhile, tenant satisfaction with the repairs service has increased from the previous provider to 98 per cent.

A similar story of doing more for less is unfolding in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Here, recent independent reviews by consultancies HouseMark and HQN commended our excellent customer service, while highlighting the repairs service as one of London’s best. HouseMark placed LBWF in the ‘upper quartile’ among its peers for the low cost per property of its repairs service at £230 lower than the median for other London boroughs and arm’s length management organisations.

There are many factors that underpin our successful delivery with our clients. Three of the most important are: investing in our people; investing in our systems; and taking an open and honest approach to client relations.

By investing in our people we want to create an environment where world-beating customer service is our watchword. We are well on the way to achieving this and have been independently assessed by the Institute of Customer Service as one of the leading companies in the UK across all business sectors.

We want our people to be the best and so are ensuring we back them with state-of-the-art IT and cutting-edge business practice. For instance, our work on ensuring we can accurately map customer journeys through our business have uncovered a gold mine of customer insight. When allied to investment in our upcoming multi-media InTouch customer communication system, we will provide a seamless customer experience that is second to none.

We are very clear in how we approach a working relationship with a client. We are open and honest and expect the same in return. That way we establish the trust necessary to gain a clear understanding of a client’s business. The result is that synergies and savings are quickly realised and continue to be so over the long term. A close working relationship means no unpicking an unworkable contract after a couple of years.

In an age when housing associations and councils are searching for every last penny, having happier tenants for less outlay could not be more relevant.

Nick Sterling is managing director of Osborne Property Services

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