Sir – A recent poll conducted on behalf of the NHF found that 67 per cent of tenants affected by welfare reform are finding it hard to pay their rent, 55 per cent had often run out of money by the end of the week or month, 40 per cent of affected tenants had no access to the internet at all, and half of the 60 per cent with internet access were not confident about making a benefit application online.
These results underline the potential impact of welfare reform to housing providers, many of which have already undertaken risk assessments and implemented measures to ensure services are maintained while protecting revenues.
For those who haven’t, what’s the best way to protect revenues? Employ more staff in the contact centre and recruit a team of ruthless bailiffs? Of course not; the answer is to act smart through a series of complementary solutions.
Clearly going digital and giving tenants self-service access to housing services that they have the confidence to use is one positive step as part of a wider digital inclusion strategy. One housing association recently concluded that each tenant transaction completed online saves £14 compared with the same transaction in-person.
Give tenants the ability to communicate with their landlord through their preferred channel, and satisfaction will increase. Social isolation diminishes when people are connected to online services and it’s not just a positive impact on health and wellbeing, but also in tenants’ pockets.
I would urge housing providers to consider moving to an integrated and multi-function contact centre; tenants are more likely to respond to innovative communications that combine SMS, email, and phone-based tactics which, for example, remind tenants of payment dates and allow them to take action on rent payments, resulting in faster collection of revenue while reducing recovery costs.
Nick Holt, Account Director, Intrinsic