Transforming service delivery in Housing
In the second in our series of guest blogs, Karen Johnson, Head of Customer and Corporate Services at Teign Housing, explores how the use of advanced technology is helping Housing Associations to drive digital inclusion and enhance service delivery to tenants.
The advent of digital inclusion signals a major shakeup in the housing sector and the digital revolution has given housing associations unprecedented levels of engagement with their tenants. With new reforms in social housing announced in this year’s Queen’s Speech, digitalising services will have an important role to play in the Government’s strategy to bring digital inclusion to all.
The motivation is partly driven by the Public Services Social Value Act 2012; for the first time, all public bodies in England and Wales, including housing associations, are required to consider how the services they commission and procure might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area. Yet, despite the fact that the internet currently has over 3 billion users worldwide, the UK Office of National Statistics identified that 4.1 million adults out of 8.7 million living in social housing have never been online.
It’s not just regulation driving change. Housing providers are beginning to appreciate that delivering services via a wider range of channels allows them the opportunity to deliver enhanced tenant services. By integrating an array of existing business systems, such as housing management and rent applications and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, detailed information relating to tenants can be captured and shared, affording housing providers full visibility of a tenant’s profile and their interactions with their landlord. And the benefits of digital inclusion don’t end there. A report commissioned in 2012 by Pearson and the CBI has connected being Internet savvy to increased employment and earning potential.
The pressure is on to get tenants engaging via digital channels. The Government aims to increase the number of citizens who are online by 25% in 2016, then by a further 25% every two years until everyone is connected. By 2017, the Government wants 80% of Universal Credit applications to be made online. However, in setting these objectives, the Government has identified four key barriers to achieving its targets; the ability to connect to the Internet; being able to use the Internet; believing the Internet is a good thing and the fear of online crime.
So while it is clear that there are challenges ahead, the Government’s strategy to bring digital inclusion to all will deliver enormous benefits to all concerned. And technology has a vital role to play. Allowing housing associations to manage their interactions across multiple channels is essential to exploiting the advantages of advancements in communication technologies. The digital age demands that housing associations reassess how they operate and redesign their services to keep up with the society they endeavour to serve.
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