As most housing providers know, collecting and collating repair requests can be time consuming. To that end, M3 Housing developed the first version of its Housecall repairs reporting system 10 years ago. At the time, fewer than 20 per cent of UK households had internet access and broadband was unheard of. Now over 70 per cent of households have internet access, 90 per cent of which is via broadband.
Bob Williams, director, M3 Housing, said, “Our aim with Housecall was to provide a user-friendly system that helped residents to make as accurate a repair request as possible. Over the last decade, we have watched how people have used the system and have constantly refined it. In the last twelve months, we have seen a dramatic increase in the traffic of reports through Housecall.”
Housecall now helps tenants submit over 180 repair requests each day, with multiple-language support available. A control panel allows housing providers to view reports in the system while tenants can track and follow-up their previous repair requests made via Housecall. In future, M3 Housing plans to make Housecall available via mobile devices and on digital television.
Williams added, “The new photo-upload facility was a customer-led innovation, inspired by a resident who emailed her landlord a photograph from her mobile phone to show the fly tipping outside her home. This gave the landlord all the information needed to arrange for the rubbish to be cleared without needing an inspection visit. As a result, the problem was resolved as quickly and cheaply as possible.”
Housecall is available as a hosted service for housing providers. Williams said, “We adapt Housecall to give it the look and feel of a subscriber’s website. All they need for a complete service is a suitable email address or, in some cases, multiple email addresses since Housecall can redirect repair requests according to postcode or the type of repair.”
M3 Housing has found that public-sector organisations and housing providers often find it difficult to develop usable web sites. They need to combine the provision of general information about their work and the services that residents can expect, access to personal information such as tenants’ rent accounts, and allowing residents to make requests such as repairs to their homes.
Williams explained, “This is like running an online newspaper, bank, and bookshop all in one. Each role requires a different approach but the temptation is to find a single solution for all of them and this often means that none of the services is delivered as well as they could be. Bringing these disparate requirements together and executing them well is certainly not easy but we will continue to ensure that Housecall is an effective and flexible part of the answer.”