Since joining Rooftop almost two years ago, I’ve met and spoken to scores of customers in a huge variety of situations, from accompanying a plumber on his repair rounds to being unexpectedly invited to look around a proud tenants’ flat at a community event.
Customers contact me on email, social media and by letter. Regularly, I am invited to attend meetings. Sometimes they stop me in the street or grab me for a chat when I’m on a walkabout…
Of course, contacting the head of an organisation is more often than not because you are not happy about something; and like any housing association we don’t always get things right at Rooftop. But there’s been plenty of times too that I’ve been thanked and even inspired by what I have heard – most recently by a lady at an Extra Care scheme who told me how moving there had transformed her life.
At the suggestion of customers involved in Rooftop, I agreed to take on 5 tasks, and this is how I got on.
Firstly, I spent a morning shadowing Nick, our Handyman at St Oswalds Extra Care Village in Gloucester – he provides a crucial role in sorting out more minor issues quickly. Keeping any site of this size maintained to everyone’s 100% satisfaction is a challenge but I know Nick does a good job and many appreciate the work he and the team do, outside of the more formal repairs reporting.
Are there things we can improve? There always are and we are looking at those
Next I reported in an alleged fly-tipping incident claiming to be a customer to see what the response I would get was. Our reception staff did a sterling job in listening and logging my ‘mystery shopping’ call, although it took a few days for it to be actioned due to a staffing change.
I am very grateful to Residence Excellence Panel Member Daisy Halford who took time out to sit with me while I went through the customer portal system; my view was it worked OK but was a bit clunky and not that user-friendly. But by the end of the summer we will have a new Housing Management System in place and a new website, so the customer experience will be vastly improved.
I then tried to log an out-of-hours repairs call about a flood. Again, my experience was that the call was handled well and effectively.
Finally, I joined a group of young people at one of our housing schemes in Tewkesbury to hear about their lives, challenges and views on Rooftop as a landlord.
They were a positive and mutually supportive bunch and felt we broadly did a good job of providing decent accommodation and advice and help more generally. Funding is tight and there’s a difficult balance between freedoms as young tenants and the inevitable rules such situations require.
As an aside, I also phoned several customers in the run up to Christmas to check if they were aware of the roll-out of the new Universal Credit benefit system; I was struck then by how receptive most were and even if they didn’t need or want advice, appreciated that we cared enough to call and ask.
So, as I have said to a number of customers over the past year or so, I can’t promise to always get things right or that Rooftop will always be able to fulfil a request; but I can promise we will listen and respond as positively as we are able.
One thing I am really committed to is strengthening the Customer Voice to that we get the views of customers into the heart of the organisation and change things where we can.
From this month onwards, we will present a report on what customers are saying (good and bad) and what we are doing to each meeting of the Rooftop Board. I will also do a Facebook live session to summarise what was discussed and agreed by the Board.