Ahead of Future of Housing 2020, we spoke to Aasia Nisar, Engagement & Scrutiny Manager at Sovereign to talk about how we can improve tenant satisfaction rates and what the industry could be doing to improve tenant engagement.
What is your predominant method of getting in touch with your tenants? Do you use any technology?
We use a variety of methods to contact our residents, including email, texting, using social media or simply giving them a call. Our systems highlight tenants’ preferred methods of contact, so we always try and engage with them in the way that suits them best
Our online portal now has 19,000 users where residents can carry out a wide range of actions from asking to keep a pet to paying their rent, so we often use this method to share news or changes. We also regularly interact with our residents on Facebook to pass on information that will impact them like rent-free weeks or fire safety campaigns.
Which method do you think is the most effective? Does this change for different residents?
Different methods obviously work better for different people, but I think one of the most popular methods of getting in touch is Facebook messenger. We have a dedicated social media team and have seen more and more people choosing to interact with us in this way. But not everyone uses social media or simply prefer to use other methods to get in touch, such as calling or emailing. A more personalized digital offer means we can free up time to focus on those more complex issues.
Roughly what percentage of your tenants do you think actively engage with you?
It’s hard to put a percentage on it – and it also depends on how you define ‘engagement’. We have 58,000 properties, but it could be that low engagement is better, as it means that the majority of people are just getting on with their lives, and that everything is running smoothly – they don’t want or need to get in touch with us. However, as we’ve said, 19,000 residents use the portal for day to day tasks, and thousands do contact us each year by phone, email and social media.
Our resident board partnership has eleven people and there are currently five people on our scrutiny group, who put our services under the microscope and work with us to make them better. On top of that, our residents have established ten community engagement groups, who in turn run events that attract hundreds of people.
How do you assess your tenant satisfaction?
We look at satisfaction across a range of areas: how we handled complaints, value for money, community/environment, condition of the home. In addition, we have an overall satisfaction rating that our tenants give us.
We do these using a variety of surveys, either online or by phone. This is both transactional, for example after a complaint has been resolved, or relational, such as the annual STAR survey that goes to all/third of all residents.
What do you think you are doing really well when it comes to your tenants?
Our ‘triangle of engagement’ approach really puts the voice of our residents and communities at the heart of our strategy, operations and decision-making processes. It continues to evolve and has delivered tangible changes to how we do things, from how we handle complaints to the standards of our homes.
If money was no object, what would you implement in your association in order to improve communication with residents?
We’re doing lots, but I’d invest in the capability of our IT systems. The more residents can effortlessly self-serve, whether that’s finding information quickly or booking an appointment, the better.
What should the entire sector be focusing on in order to keep tenants happy?
I think that after the tragic events of Grenfell - health and safety is at the forefront of tenants’ minds, so knowing they’re living in a safe and secure home is vital. Tenants also need to be able to trust their landlord - we have to ensure we deliver on what we say we will, as this is can only make our relationship with our residents stronger.
Sovereign use a variety of technologies to engage with their residents and are currently focusing on customer journey mapping and customer experience. Aasia will be speaking on the tenant engagement panel at the conference in February 2020.
Jessica Kimbell, GovNet