Four out of five adults in the UK now own a smart phone, with the average person spending one day a week online. As a consequence, the amount of information we share about ourselves – our likes, dislikes, spending habits and places we go – is being regularly analysed by companies who want to know what makes us tick. More importantly, they are using this information to determine how they can improve their own outputs, enhance their appeal and create competitive advantage.
Understanding tenants’ behaviour
Retailers are particularly good at this. They use our data to better understand our patterns of behaviour and what motivates us to part with our hard-earned cash. But why am I talking about this to an audience that operates in housing? Because I believe that this same approach could be adopted by housing providers to identify ways in which they can more effectively interact with tenants and bring about positive change for all.
Having worked with several housing providers to deliver improved insights through data, it’s clear that there is a genuine desire to better understand tenants. It’s not about the bottom line but about how and where enhancements in tenant management can help to reduce issues, improve online communications and management channels, and implement more of a ‘different size for different people’ approach rather than a ‘one size fits all’, which as we know, doesn’t.
In my experience, tenant insights can be broken down into three main data sets:
- Who they are;
- Their behaviours;
- What they think.
Who they are
Tenants comprise a broad spectrum of individuals. There has been a sharp rise in the 21-35 age bracket as property prices have continued to rise, coupled with a growing demand for family housing as more young adults are living at home for longer. This shift in the age demographic has led to housing providers actively increasing their online communications and management channels, enabling time-poor tenants to report maintenance issues or make payments during their own downtime periods rather than being restricted to normal office hours, which may require them to take annual leave or leave work early and potentially lose out on pay.
Where retailers use data to identify patterns of behaviour related to spending or offer redemptions, we have been helping housing providers to identify tenants’ potential issues and trigger points, such as rent arrears, and enabling them to tailor their services and put support mechanisms in place before they become a problem. With a shift in housing benefits payments and welfare reforms, there has been an increased risk in payments being missed. Personal situations can also change. A relationship breakdown or sudden unemployment can both bring additional financial burdens and where a tenant has previously been on top of their payments, they might find themselves struggling to cover their rent. Data analytics is helping to predict and safeguard those who are experiencing financial challenges and helping them to manage their cash flow more efficiently.
What they think
Sustained communications are key to determining perceptions around service provision and where improvements can be made. Housing providers have taken significant steps in changing how they disseminate information and interact with tenants, using decisions informed by data insights. As a result, tenants are more engaged and feel a greater sense of ownership of their property, leading to a more positive and engaged relationship between them and their housing provider.
By breaking down and better using the data available in these three core areas, housing providers can cut through complex and weighty volumes of information to focus solely on those insights which can help them make effective decisions and deliver positive change.
In the same way as retailers use their data to target specific audiences with specific offers and opportunities, housing providers can take the same approach and work it to both their own advantage and that of their tenants.
Steve Coates is CEO of Brainnwave.