Housing providers across the country are waking up to the reality that their customers aren’t where they left them. Increasing numbers of tenants are demanding services whenever and wherever they want them so the Longhurst Group is on the move.
Over the past year, we have developed our customer websites to deliver increased functionality allowing residents to request, report and pay for services online. It’s our ambition to migrate even more fundamental actions into the digital arena, to make interacting with us no more bothersome than updating a Facebook status; hence our decision to launch mobile sites to support all mobile-enabled devices. We developed and launched these sites alongside our websites, which has the additional benefit of allowing us to manage content for both through the same content management system. By approaching the technology in this way, we essentially bought the websites and paved the way to mobile apps for free – excellent value for money!
The current trend for apps has led to many technology suppliers contacting us to sell app developments, quoting large sums of money for development together with annual maintenance charges. This caused us to reflect on what constitutes good practice when it comes to embracing these emerging platforms in relation to our social principles.
After countless meetings to discuss ‘app vs. mobile-enabled content: what’s the difference?’, a fancy homepage icon seemed to be the only element missing, so we commissioned one for just a few hundred pounds. This branded icon creates a single-touch shortcut straight to our mobile sites where customers can use any of our online functions. Thus far they seem to suit our customer’s needs perfectly and at a fraction of the cost of a fully-fledged app.
So are software developers taking advantage of the current thirst for technology-driven communications solutions? As housing providers with a social responsibility to our tenants, are we pushing back hard enough to get the products we need at prices that don’t compromise our ability to support the communities we serve? Technology underpins our customer and stakeholder communications more each day, so we need to be confident to ask for what we want and negotiate from a position of knowledge and understanding.
With regulatory frameworks placing greater emphasis on providing evidence of value for money, the rationale behind our decisions needs to be watertight. This leads us to ask – is investing thousands of pounds on app development the best use of resources when there are much cheaper alternatives?
Multi-channel communications are undoubtedly a fundamental part of today’s marketing strategy, but in this age of austerity our drive to go digital has to be supported by an ability to challenge the technology providers if we’re to get the best value for money for our businesses and our customers.
So, to find out the difference between ‘app vs. mobile-enabled content’, take a look at www.longhurst-group.org.uk.
Janet Matthews is head of marketing at Longhurst Group.