Why the VfM standard acts a wake-up call to the housing sector
The latest assessment of registered housing providers’ value for money (VfM) submissions published in February 2015 by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) reported an overall improvement in the sector’s compliance with the regulator’s standard. The second year in which providers have been required to publish VfM self-assessments, action taken against non-compliance is further evidence that the HCA is taking a robust approach to regulation. Delivering efficiency savings by a thorough examination of costs is an important element of the VfM standard. However, cost is only one element of measuring value, a point reiterated by Jonathan Walters, Deputy Director of Regulation at the HCA, who, as the latest assessments were published, commented, “Our VfM standard is important; it can help ensure that tenants receive better services and that providers can maximise investment in new supply”.
In addition to cutting costs, return on investment must consider social measures, including high quality services and tenant satisfaction. Achieving these measures presents fresh challenges, all of which are playing their part in shaping the housing sector of the future.
Take the Public Services Social Value Act 2012. This continues to exert enormous pressure on the housing sector to play an active role in the creation of sustainable and more socially inclusive communities. Welfare reform and universal credit are also influencing the way that housing providers perform. Beyond regulatory changes, tenants are inciting significant changes in how services are delivered. The widespread use of smart devices has revolutionised the way service users interact with providers, pushing digital inclusion and customer service higher up the agenda. With more employees working remotely and on the move, the concept of “work” has evolved. As a result, employers must respond by offering flexible working practices that enhance employee productivity – irrespective of location – with access to business tools, systems and apps via their device of choice.
In tandem, the commercialisation of housing provision continues at a pace, as portfolios expand beyond social housing into new territories, such as new build or part-buy schemes.
However, many housing providers rely on an array of legacy systems, resulting from inherited IT and market consolidation. While IT struggles with system management, end-users find it difficult to access critical business data locked in departmental silos. An over-reliance on bespoke MI reports is not only inefficient, but restricts access to a single, accurate view of the service user – with the obvious negative impact on the timeliness, accuracy and efficiency of service delivery and resolution of tenant issues.
As identified in our white paper, responding effectively to these challenges requires a comprehensive review of business practices and a willingness to invest in best-of-breed technologies. Housing providers must make sound decisions about future IT investments, enabling them to deliver the high quality outcomes demanded by tenant and empower employees with the tools, apps and infrastructure required to support new working practices, while reducing their total cost of ownership.
One housing provider that is already reaping the benefits of a sound IT investment is Trident Housing. One of the Midland’s leading associations, Trident has deployed ShoreTel’s Unified Communications (UC) platform and Enterprise Contact Centre, fully integrated with their Microsoft Dynamics CRM solution. The provider has seen an increased efficiency among their customer advisors, more accurate call handling and better reliability and scalability. The benefits of UC do not end there. UC breaks down the barriers between different methods of communication, allowing individuals to communicate easily and seamlessly with each other, irrespective of device, channel or location. Organisations using UC solutions benefit from having services converged on a single platform that allows for one-stop management and visibility across the entire communications infrastructure.
Contact centre software can be easily customised and integrated into the overall platform, giving employees a unified, 360-degree view of tenant information presented in real-time. This is particularly beneficial for expanding organisations and those that deliver tenant services across multiple locations. UC eliminates multiple service provider contracts, consolidating the entire communications infrastructure into one bill and enabling providers to scale their own operations seamlessly and efficiently without overburdening IT or incurring ad-hoc or unplanned costs.
As UC consolidates all communication channels into a seamless experience, tenants can communicate with their landlord in the way they want and by the means they have available. Utilising a true omnichannel communication solution ensures that housing providers can deliver a consistent brand experience, irrespective of the channel used. By integrating UC with back office systems, comprehensive contact history is clearly visible and easily accessible, aiding faster resolution of tenant issues.
UC must be viewed as a game-changer by those seeking to increase business agility, decrease costs and improve customer service, providing the housing sector with a robust communication platform to enhance tenant engagement, accomplish digital inclusion, improve mobility and achieve a significantly lower total cost of ownership – all making for a very positive VfM self assessment.
For further information about our solutions for housing providers, contact us on 0161 788 0000.
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