In the UK, an estimated 4.2 million people are awaiting placement in social housing, with the construction of only 7,000 social houses in 2022 posing a considerable challenge for local councils. This concerning situation heightens the urgency for housing associations to support those in need, streamline services and digitally transform effectively and efficiently. Digital transformation provides a realistic and compelling solution to addressing the pressing demands in social housing whilst answering the need to be a more responsive, customer-centric service provider to its residents.
As we step into 2024, here are some top digital trends for the industry that hold the potential to revolutionise the housing sector. These trends not only address the pressing issues of data management, tenant engagement, and health and safety but also pave the way for increased operational efficiency and an improved tenant experience.
1. Tenant first design
Digital technologies play a pivotal role in improving tenant engagement, utilising channels like chatbots, WhatsApp and social media apps. A tenant first design prioritises the needs, preferences, and overall satisfaction of tenants. Housing associations should communicate with tenants to gather feedback, conducting digital surveys and feedback forms in gauging tenant satisfaction, facilitating improved communication, and creating a sense of community participation within housing associations.
- Clear line of sight: gather faster insight on emerging issues, enabling faster action and pre-emptive engagement.
- Engaging in channels of choice: encouraging wider insight across all channels by gathering feedback from a greater proportion of residents
- Gathering insight from the silent dissenter: proactive insight and foresight can predict where dissatisfaction is growing without being told in feedback surveys.
2. Adoption of digital platforms and tools
The integration of digital platforms and tools such as a customer relationship management (CRM) system provides housing associations with a unified view of all tenant interactions, improving operational efficiency and tenant satisfaction by presenting key data in real-time conversations. These cloud-based applications help organisations scale operations at pace, supporting remote working and a greater focus on cybersecurity.
- Efficient management of tenant data and property maintenance tasks
- Automation of routine processes, reducing manual workload
- Real-time updates on property-related matters, fostering transparency
- Enables digital rent payments, enhancing convenience for tenants
- Fingertip access to maintenance request submissions, leading to quicker issue resolution
- Real-time communication channels strengthen the relationship between tenants and housing providers
- Predictive maintenance capabilities through data analysis, reducing reactive responses
- Historical data insights assist in proactively addressing common issues, minimising delays and costs
3. Increased use of data and analytics
Housing associations are gathering more data than ever before, including details on tenants and the services being provided. Organisations can improve their decision-making and services by analysing data to discover patterns and trends. For example, data can be collected on property conditions and predictive models can be created by examining historical data to anticipate common issues like heating or plumbing failures.
- Proactive maintenance: anticipates issues, scheduling timely repairs
- Cost savings: reduces major breakdowns, optimising resource use
- Operational efficiency: using data to provide proactive intervention reduces failure demand and repeat contacts
- Enhanced tenant experience: fewer disruptions, transparent communication
- Regulatory compliance: demonstrates a proactive approach to safety standards
By embracing data, the housing association transitions to proactive maintenance, improving efficiency, tenant satisfaction, and regulatory adherence - Social Housing White Paper
4. Harnessing artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise operational efficiency
The rise of smart assistants, chatbots, and other AI tools can help automate tasks within the housing sector, alleviating long-standing challenges. From reducing 'no-access' visits to addressing planned maintenance backlogs, AI-optimised field service management enhances operational efficiency. Automation technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) can help the sector deliver in its commitment to providing faster and more efficient citizen services.
- Efficiency and effectiveness: harnessing AI and human contact provides the most effective support in a streamlined and efficient workflow, reducing cost to serve
- One view of the truth: AI aligned across your front and back-end systems will ensure one version of the facts is presented to both colleagues and residents, delivering factually correct and timely content
- Engaged and supported colleagues: integrated AI and knowledge at the fingertips of your teams will enable them to focus on the conversation with residents rather than the backend process
- Proactive personalised support: AI-integrated processes can reduce failure demand, pre-emptively identify and manage issues, and provide additional recognition and support for vulnerable residents
As these trends unfold, digital transformation stands as an effective key enabler for housing associations in the UK, offering not only operational enhancements but also the promise of a more responsive, citizen-focused future.