Negotiating unknown waters or going under?

The world is changing and we have to change with it.

At one time the regular communication for housing providers with tenants was through the weekly visit to collect rent and check that everything was alright.  Now we have to respond to the variety of ways in which different customers want to communicate with us.

There will, of course, always be a place for personal contact.  Letters continue to be important especially for formal matters such as giving notice to end a tenancy.  The telephone continues to be important although it’s more likely to be a mobile nowadays.  But for an increasing number of people communication is digital.  And ours has to be too.

Over the last year Derwent Living has made a significant number of changes to what we are offering customers digitally.  We have of course continued to use email and social media.  Many more of our surveys are now done by email.  This helps us to involve a larger number of people at a time when fewer people want to attend traditional meetings and the geographical area we operate in has grown.  Interestingly our use of text has remained quite limited, at least until recently.  This is odd when you consider how much it’s used generally. We are now making some use of it for consultation and satisfaction surveys.

We have used Twitter for some while, especially in engaging with other businesses, and have around 1700 followers.  Although we have used Facebook for nearly three years there is less activity here than on Twitter, and those who do use it tend to be over 30.  Some customers use it for information and a core will let us know what they think through it about particular issues.  It also provides an easy outlet for complaints and we have been able to respond quickly.  Recently, more young people especially have drifted away from Facebook and found Twitter or other social media suit them better.  For us the bigger changes have been elsewhere.

We have revamped our website and subsequently optimized it for those using it from mobile phones and tablets. We can no longer assume than website users are sat at a PC at home, or at work.  So as well as having a site that is adapted for mobile devices we have also developed and launched an app for both iOS and Android devices. Very quickly more than 500 people downloaded it.

Customers are not just coming to our website for general information. They want to be able to check their rent balance, report a repair, make a payment and so on.  This led to the development of MY Derwent Living, our secure interactive site launched this month which can be used from both PCs and mobile devices.  We also created a microsite to help customers see how the forthcoming welfare reforms will affect them. This included a bedroom tax calculator so that people could calculate how much housing benefit they will lose under the new under-occupancy rules.

The digital offering to our customers has had to develop.  This has involved technical skill, creativity and investment, both in time and money.   But to meet our customer’s aspirations we’ll have to keep pressing forward and continue to innovate.  There’s no time to tread water.  We need to use the current and strike out with a sense of direction.