Taking resident complaints seriously

31st October 2023

New Housing Ombudsman complaint volumes show how vital it is to meet resident’s expectations quickly says Civica’s Helen Rogers

The Housing Ombudsman has published its latest findings on the volumes of complaints in 2022/23. This outlined a huge spike in maladministration findings compared to previous years; more than 5,000 complaints were escalated for formal investigation for the first time, representing a 27% increase on the previous year.

We all know it’s vital to handle complaints effectively. It isn’t just about the communications and the resolution, but also having the right training, the empathy to deal with different types of customers and updating customers in a reasonable timeframe.

Tech to minimise complaints

The focus on digital channel shift has enabled housing providers to share essential information minimising the need to call or email for every interaction.

Better automation in case management contributes to updating customers regularly so they feel their issues are being heard and acted upon. This leads to improved customer service, customer satisfaction and prevention of such complaints manifesting. It’s about building trust with your customers as a housing provider.

First time resolution in terms of available information has never been more important in a world where technology and tools such as repairs diagnostics, smart homes sensor and monitoring solutions, building information management and digital twins help providers to proactively monitor and prevent issues from arising in the first place. The return on investment, let alone the indirect cost savings through improved service provision, can be realised within months of implementation. The future of how stock condition can be forecasted, planned and delivered can also change by using proactive monitoring technology, leading to improved satisfaction and, in turn, reduced complaints.

If we consider repairs, tailored help articles made available on customer portals or Alexa devices can help avoid repairs. This can also improve tenant satisfaction as tenants may be in a position to resolve the problems before they lead to a necessary repair, all assisting in the reduction of potential complaints.

With some councils citing they have fewer resources to deal with customer volumes, technology must be considered to help improve communication, visibility, insights and trend analysis, along with further proactive monitoring to help meet the requirements of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act.

It’s evident there needs to be a shift in tenant satisfaction to avoid time-consuming and costly administration. We need to ensure residents are living in homes where they feel comfortable and safe – where complaints are the exception rather than the rule when engaging with housing providers. While the number of complaints has risen, there are plenty of lessons in good practice casework among housing providers too, helping to drive a positive learning culture for the sector.

Combining the latest technology with the desire to boost the resident experience will no doubt see more improvements for the future.