Housing Insight has launched RentsConnect to revolutionise the way in which housing providers interact with their tenants.
Part of the software provider’s PanConnect suite of products, RentsConnect replaces static weekly reports and temporary case notes with a system that lets staff communicate with housing management systems and other databases in real time and without duplication of data entities.
Katrina Heyworth, head of sales, Housing Insight, said, “Before the pandemic, housing officers were already facing challenges around liaising with their residents, particularly about arrears. Remote working then came in and many ‘visits’ had to be conducted by phone rather than in person, at a time when residents were more likely to fall into arrears due to furlough and the ban on evictions.
“With the introduction of RentsConnect, we wanted to make it easier for staff to do their job well, whether they were working from the office, their kitchen table or the tenant’s home.”
Keeping priority lists up-to-date
Housing Insight identified two areas in which they could make a positive difference. The first was to offer real-time updates to arrears’ lists so that payments would be immediately visible and visiting priorities automatically updated.
Heyworth said, “Staff can now see at a glance when the resident they are speaking to last made a payment. They don’t have to go back to the office to check the database after a visit or when they get off the phone.
“RentsConnect also helps to streamline staff diaries for the week because it moves residents up or down the priority list in real time, depending on when arrears payments are made or payments become overdue. Staff no longer have to work from a weekly report that becomes out-of-date the minute it is issued, and the updates are automatic – there’s no need to log in to see if anything has changed.”
Connecting with the office
Secondly, Housing Insight wanted to make it easier for housing officers to interact with back-office systems when they were in the field. RentsConnect can be used online or offline, which is invaluable in areas with a patchy internet signal; the system automatically syncs the next time it reconnects, with all data encrypted and held securely.
Heyworth said, “We know that housing staff frequently use pen and paper to make temporary notes while they’re out and about. When they return to the office, they have to type up their notes on to the back-office systems, but this is duplicated effort and also means that snippets of information can get lost.
“Using RentsConnect, all the latest information is available for each staff member to view on demand. Pre-populated forms can be uploaded and updates made directly to back-office systems from a mobile, tablet or laptop.”
Understanding the ‘why’
Depending on which modules are activated in addition to RentsConnect, housing staff can view additional information that may help to explain why the resident they are visiting is in arrears or on the edge of non-payment; for example, owing to issues with universal credit or outstanding repairs.
Heyworth said, “Our system makes it easier for housing officers to differentiate between those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay. When somebody chooses not to pay, it’s often because there is an underlying issue; identifying that issue can provide an opportunity to move the situation towards a resolution.”
The customer experience
Gary Naylor, head of housing, Thenue Housing, said, “Our staff can offer residents a better level of service because they’ve more information available to them. They can now process payments, make notes and arrange meetings on the spot, from anywhere.
“We’ve found Housing Insight to be more flexible than other providers because we’ve worked out how best to use its system in the field. Some of the out-of-the-box functionality immediately made us more efficient, and we’ve also asked for a few tweaks to fit our existing working practices that we didn’t need to change.
“Working with Housing Insight has helped us look at how we operate across our whole business, particularly when it comes to updating and integrating content with our main database. From estate issues to signing off repairs, there are numerous ways in which we can develop our relationship further. We’re planning to do three projects with Housing Insight this year – that’s two more than we expected because the implementation process is so fast.”