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Luton Community Housing

General Needs Housing

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The fruits of fresh thinking


The benefits of our housing services department taking a modern, holistic approach have really started to show over the last year. The impact has ranged from improved communication and efficiency to reduced rent arrears and costs.

Deeper connections get results

In September 2016, we changed the focus of our housing services team. Each team member no longer focuses on a specific area such as rent or rehousing. We now have three Customer Relationship Managers (CRMs) who get to know and take care of a group of customers throughout their journey with us.

In April 2017, rent arrears had already gone down to 3.73% and by April 2018 it was down to 2.64%. We believe this is partially because we're now in closer contact with each customer and are in a better position to intervene if we see that they're struggling.

We're able to act quickly and proactively to prevent rent arrears escalating to unmanageable levels – for example by inspecting and reporting repairs and maintenance issues promptly. And our partnership working with the Department for Work and Pensions, Luton Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council has achieved excellent results, helping us to resolve customers' rent and other issues more effectively.

Keeping on top of rent collection

We've also established more robust payment collection methods that work for us and our customers and help avoid expensive court fees. Since April 2018, we've only had to take three customers to court for not paying their rent – a big reduction on the previous two years. To improve the collection of outstanding rent from former customers, we've appointed an organisation called Phoenix to search for and contact them and collect the amounts owed.

Our customer portal will soon be available too, which will give all customers access to their rent account on-line so they can check their statements and pay more easily.

Smoother processes & better service

Another example of how our CRM model is improving our service is during mutual exchanges. We've found that because we don't need to wait for other departments to do inspections, sign off properties and sign up customers, we're now more efficient than many other organisations. And now that we're able to work in an agile way, we can manage our time more effectively and be available when and where our customers need us.

All set for Universal Credit

Over the next year, a key focus for us will continue to be Universal Credit, which rolls out in October 2018. We've already carried out training for staff and customers and provided lots of informative flyers. Our CRMs have also visited most of our customers who'll be affected to talk through the changes with them.

We'll soon be accredited as a trusted partner with DWP and will keep in contact with customers to ensure we give any support and guidance needed.