Representatives from BDHT have been invited to attend to provide information on how they deal with Customer Service Requests.
The Chairman welcomed Graeme Anderson, Director of Housing and Communities at BDHT to the meeting. Members were reminded that Mr Anderson had been invited to the meeting in order to share best practice in respect of customer service and in particular how BDHT dealt with and logged service requests.
Mr Anderson gave a short presentation (attached at Appendix 1) which covered the following areas:
· Background information on the work of BDHT.
· Customer Care Culture and how customer satisfaction was its primary measure and the need to empower the workforce.
· The Trust Equation – Credibility + Reliability + Emotion = Trust.
· Customer Care Systems in place together with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and levels of priority and associated timescales. CRM performance was a key performance indicator and reported at Executive level.
· Customer Care Lessons – the importance of happy people was vital and the importance of process and procedure and knowing when to go outside of them. Put trust in your staff to do a great job and continual progression were key elements of this process.
Mr Anderson also provided information on the “My BDHT” customer portal, which was a self-serve system that customers could log into in order to for example, report ASB, repairs and review rent statements. It was important to remember that this was not the only way to access services and it was an additional service for those who wished to use electronic access, but BDHT were mindful that many of their customers did not have this access or preferred either direct contact or phone contact and these services would always be available for them. It was providing a variety of options to suit the needs of its customers. However, by having this service it freed up staff to deal with more high profile issues.
The Board was also advised that it was important to trust the frontline staff and give them the tools in order to make decisions, whilst ensuring that the right checks and balances were in place.
The Chairman explained that the Board were particular interested in how general enquiries were dealt with, such as repairs and how the Council could work with BDHT to improve the customer experience. It was often the case that customers made the assumption that the Council and BDHT was the same thing and it may be that there was also a way in which Members could work with BDHT. There was already a good relationship between BDHT and the Council and it was important for this to continue to grow. It appeared that the main problem from the Council’s side of things was service requested which currently were not logged on to a particular system and no specific timescale or process was in place to deal with them, as they were very much dependent on the service area each referred to.
Mr Anderson confirmed that they did allocate each request with a reference number; however this was more for officer use than the customer’s. The customer would be asked for their address and date of birth and this was used to be able to recognise the request in future. BDHT’s aim was for straightforward requested to deal with them with them straight away where possible. The more detailed requested would always receive a response saying someone would get back to them. The biggest issue and cause for annoyance amongst customers was when people said they would contact them and did not call back. Mr Anderson advised that each team held weekly meetings and any requests that were more complicated would be discussed at those meetings in order to speed up the decision making process. The Chairman suggested that it would be helpful if what the Council did tied in with the BDHT process. The Executive Director, Finance and Resources confirmed that at the Council there were some areas who had a good system in place which worked well, but there were others which needed improvement.
Following the presentation Members asked a number of questions and discussed the following areas in more detail:
· Concerns around the cladding on some properties – Mr Anderson confirmed that following the Grenfell tragedy all cladding and insulation was safety checked successfully. Although it was confirmed that BDHT did not own any high-rise buildings, the maximum was three storeys.
· Did BDHT employ its own gas and electrical staff – Mr Anderson confirmed that some work had previously been contracted out, but due to poor performance the vast majority of work was now in house, with very little being contracted out.
· The length of the waiting list and the make up of the properties in regards to size and what was most needed.
· The use and numbers of temporary accommodation. Mr Anderson explained that, as Members were aware, BDHT facilitated the homeless contract for the Council. The advantage of this was being able to where ever possible, use rolling stock for this purpose and when possible accommodate people without having to move them on several times. The hostel at Burcot Lane was currently still in use for emergency accommodation.
· How BDHT communicated with its customers. Mr Anderson explained that one to one was always a good way to communicate but it also needed to use electronic updates in order to reach a wider audience more cost effectively. Social media was also becoming a more effective way of reaching a wider audience. It was acknowledged however that this was a challenge.
Members were reminded, by the Chairman, that the aim of the meeting was to discuss customer service and not the actually work of BDHT and how the Council could learn from the processes that BDHT had in place. It was agreed for service specific requests Members should contact Mr Anderson direct and his details would be circulated outside of the meeting.
Members went on to discussing the following:
· The positive actions that BDHT have taken to support its customers and provide a good service.
· The ratio of earnings to house prices and BDHT’s commitment to build properties for social rent and the allocation system.
· Other social housing providers in the District – it was noted that BDHT was the largest but there were others.
· The Home Choice Plus system which allowed customers to monitor their application for housing from any of the organisations.
· Life time homes being available for people and whether this impacted on the number of family homes available. It was questioned whether people could be asked to move to a smaller property when their family grew up for example.
The Chairman thanked Mr Anderson for his time and useful presentation.