Housing providers are facing increasing economic and consumer regulations, from governance and financial viability to home and tenancy standards. Housing providers and their residents and stakeholders have now been consulted by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) on proposals for new Tenant Satisfaction Measures, scheduled for release in April 2023.
In parallel with the RSH, the Housing Ombudsman has its own benchmarking review, with a particular focus on complaint handling procedures for residents. The Housing Ombudsman’s first Service Annual Complaints Review has identified three key areas where there are common operational complaints. Whether you are a housing provider or a repairs and maintenance contractor to the housing sector, FLS has examined how the application of field workforce management software can improve scores to prevent complaints and explored technology best practice in these areas.
Centralising control & meeting expectations
Poor communication and a lack of follow-up is the primary factor affecting satisfaction scores for repairs and maintenance service providers. Workforce management software tracks field KPIs, centralising the control and the monitoring of field operations and their communications. This is already helping to meet or exceed expectations.
There are two central themes to achieve this. The first is a guarantee that all field operatives are working with industry-recognised criteria, such as tasks, tools or measures and that these results are of an acceptable quality. The software should help schedulers and dispatchers to manage their operational processes and respond dynamically to field requirements. Integrated call-centres, self-service ticket raising and emergency responses are standard ‘always on’ channels for residents to engage with workforce management systems.
The other is to safeguard physical locations from slow responses by removing geographical patches or hard borders when scheduling. Best-of-breed software, such as FLS Visitour, goes further by consulting not just street addresses but also geocodes, including time-of-day driving data for trillions of journeys. With a minimal amount of human administration, the system will always reflect what is physically possible, while fairly balancing field operative skills and workloads. Scheduling and route planning with an overlapping service radius produces less travel and helps residents to feel they are not in a service desert.
Once the visit has been completed, the software can send an exit survey to the resident and transparent field scheduling answers with the opportunity to book a follow-up appointment in real time (for example, the same field operative is booked for a shorter visit, two weeks later). That binding appointment is added to the schedule, with new route and cost-optimised appointments scheduled around it. The appointments are linked, meaning that should the repaired asset fail in the meantime, the already-booked appointment is considered in the schedules and the resident is notified with efficient options. On the day, they can check the progress of their ticket. All results from the exchange are written back into the CRM for auditing purposes.
Engaging the developer of field workforce management software means learning from their experiences to ensure resident repair workflows are future-ready. Sector knowledge, whether it’s specific to housing or in the dozens of appointment types needed for regulated utilities or voids, is critical. While the new measure will work across the sector, each organisation and each resident population is unique.
Preventing ‘no access’ appointments
Scheduling optimised field appointments means making a calculation against cost parameters, SLAs and countless other data points. Even with a visit planned for the best outcome, some operators are damaging their tenant satisfaction scores with ‘missed or unproductive appointments’. While at first glance, responsibility for ‘no access’ visits seems to lie with the tenants involved (i.e. neither the fault of the dispatch process nor the field operative), the Housing Ombudsman’s report emphasises two fundamental factors contributing to this metric; these include a ‘no show’ from the field operative and/or ‘incorrect skills or equipment’ to provide a first-time fix.
Real-time workforce management software mitigates these risks through digitised instructions and continuous optimisation. It begins with a move towards high quality appointment data. This can be asset details, impact, the nature of the household, even the length of time from fault to the report being made. Continual refinement of the fields may see the questions change, but a ‘real’ real-time workforce management system will consider as many parameters as possible to determine the true requirement. It can then satisfy optimal engineer skills, parts, vehicle and time to fix within a very accurate, appropriate window.
To reduce the risk of ‘no access’, the choice of cost-optimised appointments is then presented back to the resident, either over the phone, via a portal, by email or SMS. Residents can then schedule (and reschedule) via the FLS Portal (in our case) at their convenience. The system also produces reminders, increasing satisfaction and lowering cost risks at head office, such as unnecessary field operative down-time or driving and overstocks of supplies. New, transparent data is available to the business to analyse trends and empower customer service teams to action any fall in tenants’ ratings.
Digital repair logs
The Housing Ombudsman’s survey across tenants, field workforces and head offices highlighted ‘inadequate records’, in particular incomplete or missing repair logs. This inefficiency directly links with the tools made available to field service operatives.
Field workforce management software digitises the workflow between housing assets (such as domestic heating or an estate’s fire safety systems) and the appointments that technicians are allocated to service these. Asset management using a connected ERP provides a single source of truth to include the manufacturer’s lifecycle and the recommended maintenance intervals. With this information, head offices can proactively schedule regular inspections and longer-term planned maintenance or replacement programmes.
When an asset fails, a visit is likely to be needed. Scheduling this appointment in real-time gives dispatchers an instant picture of technicians’ availability and route planning for the best outcome. A mobile app, such as FLS Mobile, provides a live link to the mobile workforce and gives head office the tools to reschedule ‘in-shift’, with no delay through batch or overnight processing. An asset’s repair logs can also be delivered to the field workforce as paperless, searchable data. Further digital logs, such as photos of completed work and electronic signatures, are written back into the CRM/ERP.
Head office can then use the appointment data to satisfy record-keeping requirements and to identify patterns to detect and prevent future failures. Appointment details can be shared with building managers and individual occupants to reinforce trust and create a cycle of continuous improvement.
Jeremy Squire is the UK managing director of FLS – Fast Lean Smart.