Thrive Homes is committed to involving customers in a meaningful way by engaging them at the earliest possible stage and throughout initiatives that impact on customers. Early engagement will help to maximise the influence of customers and prevent them from thinking we are only paying lip service to customer involvement.
We comply with the National Housing Federations Together with Tenants Charter. Adoption of the Tpas National Engagement Standards 2020 as a framework to link customer involvement to our business objectives enables us to achieve the best possible return on our business investment.
Customer involvement is critical to Thrive Homes as it helps us to be a better housing provider.
We are committed to:
- Supporting customers to challenge and hold us to account by drawing on the experiences, views and judgement of involved customers and combining this with broader feedback to enable the customer viewpoint to influence the things that impact on the quality of the customer experience
- Improving our understanding of what is important to customers by developing complaints and other ‘early warning’ feedback mechanisms and performance metrics to accurately capture the reality of the customer experience and enable collaborative working to co-design services to address service failures.
- Informing and engaging customers as equal partners and in a timely way through early and ongoing consultation over issues that impact on their home, tenancy, and immediate neighbourhood, from the beginning to the end.
How do we do it?
Thrive Homes approach relies heavily on the Customer Experience Panel (CEP).
CEP’s role is to
- Act as a ‘critical friend’ and the bridge between customers and the Board. CEP develops an annual workplan and reports directly to the Board at least twice a year and provides a strong voice for customers
- Provide assurance to the Board by checking our compliance against the Regulator for Social Housing’s Consumer Standards, including reviewing and challenging a self-assessment completed by staff
- Input the customer viewpoint into strategic plans, policy reviews and regularly review our performance through a dashboard of customer metrics and working closely with the Service Shapers Group. They look at performance issues in more depth.
- Participate in quality assurance of customer-facing services through using a customer journey map approach to ensure customers consistently receive the level of service promised.
Thrive Homes has deliberately moved away from formal involvement methods that require a considerable time commitment. We favour more flexible approaches that represent real Value for Money (VfM). This approach is the best way to reach out to an increasingly diverse range of customers living in our new homes.
CEP has worked with staff to create new ways for customers to have a say, including informal drop-in events in Starbucks; customer experience webinars; Question Time Events that combine a live audience with a remote online audience. These new opportunities allow customers to make a difference to things that matter to them quickly and easily.
Is it properly resourced?
Thrive Homes provides resources to enable CEP to gain a strong foothold in the organisation. CEP Members receive a small allowance and out of pocket expenses in recognition of the level of commitment required.
Thrive is committed to increasing the resources to support wider involvement provided; it makes us a better housing provider and represents VfM. We will make additional resources available for new engagement activities and training when necessary and the business case is made.
What has been achieved?
Involvement at Thrive is still a work in progress, but we made significant gains in 2020.
- CEP was heavily involved in the production of the Annual Report, including inputting to the design and ‘fact checking’ the content to make it easier to read and open and transparent
- CEP hosted a successful Question Time Event on Estate Services which allowed customers to challenge an expert panel and get straightforward answers to over 70 questions on the night or shortly after the event
- CEP reality tested our compliance against the Regulator for Social Housing’s Consumer Standards and produced four detailed action plans of things that Thrive could do better or differently
- CEP participated in the process for the procurement and award of new contracts for Gas Services and General Maintenance to represent the views of customers
- CEP reviewed the Self-Assessment of the Ombudsman’s Complaint Code completed by Thrive staff, making a series of recommendations to capture the customer experience better
- CEP worked in close cooperation over the procurement and testing for the new Customer Hub ensuring the content was accessible and met the needs of customers
- CEP was heavily involved in our response to COVID-19 through signing off on communications to customers
- CEP Chair has written a regular blog on topical issues of interest to customers.
Next steps 2020/21
- Review customer-facing services to identify any gaps in measuring and reporting performance to ensure no service is overlooked.
- Consider different ways to measure customer experience that provide a fuller picture than offered by using customer satisfaction as the sole or primary metric.
- Take a look at online engagement platforms that provide news ways for customers to give feedback and interact with each other remotely.
- Build on the new flexible engagement methods and develop the pool of customers volunteers. These participate in SSG meetings, workshops, webinars, and task and finish groups based on their areas of interests, expertise, and availability.
- Introduce a simple method to measure the impact of customer involvement that demonstrates the value of investing in it.
- Evolve to embrace new legislation and guidance including the Social Housing White Paper and the Building a Safer Future agenda.
This Statement will be reviewed after assessment of the requirements of the Social Housing White Paper as this proposes fundamental changes to Consumer Regulation.