In the economic squeeze triggered by the pandemic, there is more scrutiny on the millions of pounds tied up in tenants’ arrears. Income teams are expected to collect more while controlling costs and avoiding bad publicity and reputational damage.
With visits, letters and phone calls falling out of favour, do housing providers’ income teams have the right tools for the job? Many income teams ‘get by’ with antiquated debt management systems rooted in the pre-internet age that cost more and deliver less than a modern system.
Spreadsheets & Post-It notes…
Income teams have a difficult enough job without also having to wrestle with archaic systems and spreadsheet ‘work-arounds’. Budgets are tight yet many organisations are pouring good money after bad; it’s time to rip off the sticking plaster because there are better uses for housing providers’ budgets than just ‘keeping the lights on’.
It can be a big challenge. Income team managers might see advocating change as too much of a career risk, with some corporate cultures making it more attractive to keep your head down and not rock the boat. There’s enough to do every day without disrupting the department – better the devil you know?
However, there is a danger that fear of change is stifling productivity and sapping resources. It’s time for housing providers to support their income teams and deliver the modernisation they desperately need.
Slow service requests & upgrades
For their part, technology suppliers have too often relegated the housing sector to the bottom of their list of priorities. Once they have been sold a system, housing providers find themselves cut adrift and waiting endlessly for service requests to be actioned. This can seriously hamper their day-to-day activities. Some have even been told that their expensive system has come to the end of its life and will no longer be supported or upgraded.
How can you tell if your debt collection system has seen better days?
- You have to supplement it with spreadsheets and Post-It notes;
- You have to get the supplier in to make even simple changes;
- You’ve been waiting months or even years for upgrades;
- If you have one small problem, the whole system comes crashing down;
- You can’t offer tenants a simple-to-use, self-service option for payments and debt arrangements.
Housing providers had to act swiftly to overcome the challenges of the pandemic. The true ramifications will be felt most keenly as 2021 progresses and all government support measures end. Housing providers should use this time to assess their readiness for the challenges to come and decide whether their debt collection solutions actually hinder or support their efforts.
Joe Sims is a pre-sales consultant for Flexys Solutions.