Aspire Group has reported on the progress of its ‘digital by design’ strategy that it began in 2014 and expects to complete by 2016, with the aim of ‘better business as usual’ for its tenants through the use of technology.
By March 2016, Aspire expects that digital by design will have cemented a new approach to the way in which the group engages with its tenants and how technology is used, focusing mainly on delivering better services for tenants, achieving greater efficiencies and returns on investment for the group, and providing staff with the right tools to do their jobs more easily and effectively.
Tracey Johnson, director of business transformation, Aspire Group, said, “It’s no secret that all housing associations will have to cut their social housing rents by 1 per cent each year from April 2016, reaching an average reduction of 12 per cent by 2020/21.
“This is an unprecedented financial challenge for us, but through the development and implementation of digital by design, we are driving forward significant business efficiencies and standards of customer service.
“I am pleased to confirm that the first phase, which focused solely on building the foundations of robust and bespoke systems, has been completed and we are now entering phase two. This will focus on seven key streams, with the main three being modern ways of working, data management and information, and opportunities to connect.”
All seven streams are currently being piloted, and once testing has been completed, all technology changes will be introduced in 2016.
Aspire said that the data management and information stream focuses on moving all tenant details to a new digital platform, while opportunities to connect focuses on improving customer service through technology. These two projects are intended to work hand-in-hand to make Aspire’s business smarter, slicker, and simpler, allowing its staff to have the information at their fingers tips, with the added bonus of creating a more agile and flexible workforce. The modern ways of working stream underpins the creation of a culture for Aspire staff to work in a more digitally-enabled environment.
Johnson said, “As part of the data management and information stream, a new over-arching CRM system will be implemented, generating a personal timeline for every contact with each individual tenant. This will ensure that our customer services staff will have the data they need to provide accurate information at any time.
“By March 2016, customer-facing staff will all benefit from the use of a new digital app running on their tablets. At a click of a button, they will be able to see a full profile of every tenant when they are visiting them in their homes or when they are out in our neighbourhoods.
“Opportunities to connect works perfectly in conjunction with this. Our technical team is working hard to implement an improved online self-service portal with increased flexibility for tenants to make contact in a way that best suits their circumstances.”
An important part of Aspire’s digital by design project is that it will continue to communicate with tenants through a variety of channels, giving them the choice to opt for their preferred method of communication.
Johnson said, “In the social housing sector, many tenants struggle with, and don’t have access to, digital platforms such as online portals. Therefore, by focusing on the importance of ensuring that they all receive the right information through their preferred channel, this will help to maintain a high standard of customer service.
“Including this multi-channel approach within our digital by design strategy effectively highlights that while internal digital solutions will enhance customer services, we are well aware that external digital portals aren’t likely to have the same effect. As a result, we will ensure that alternatives to digital communications will remain as an option for tenants with limited online access.”
As a result of digital by design strategy so far, 8,500 house files have been digitally stored, more than 150 members of staff involved in the project, 9,000 gas documents have been scanned, and ‘first-time fixes’ predicted to increase to 85 per cent.