Newlon Housing Trust, which provides 7000 homes around North and East London, is using Orchard Communicator alongside its Orchard housing management system to provide text/SMS communications with its tenants.
Following its implementation in early 2009, Newlon initially used the SMS system to improve its repairs service for residents and to reduce the number of missed appointments.
Matthew Phillips, customer service manager, Newlon Housing Trust, explained, “When residents call to book a repair, we send them a text message immediately confirming the appointment time and details. We then send another reminder message the day before the appointment, which gives them the option to cancel the appointment simply by replying to the text message.
“This system has enabled us to reduce the number of ‘no shows’, where our maintenance staff arrive at the appointment only to find the residents aren’t there. It has also helped us to make the repair service more efficient both for our staff and for the residents.”
By integrating Communicator with Orchard Housing, Newlon’s housing management system, the housing provider now has greatly improved reporting and analysis capabilities as well as better tools for profiling and surveying tenants.
Newlon has a contact centre which residents can call to report any problems, but if the problem refers to a communal area in a tower block, there may be 50 calls about the same issue. Phillips said, “We manage a number of blocks of flats and have used the SMS system to send group messages to the residents, which reassures them that any problem is being dealt with.
“For example, if a lift is out of order, we might send a first message alerting them to the problem and to let them know that we are aware of it. A second message later in the day would inform residents that the engineer was working on the problem and a third message could be sent once the lift was working again.”
SMS messaging has also enabled Newlon to reach residents who had experienced difficulties communicating in the past. One resident with hearing difficulties has embraced the new system and has been able to address issues that have been unresolved using previous communication methods.
Phillips explained, “It was very difficult for us to talk to this lady before as she was using TypeTalk to make phone calls, which meant that all messages went through an intermediary, and we found that messages would get lost in translation or misunderstood. Now that we have introduced the SMS system, she’s in much more frequent contact and we have finally been able to sort out a lot of problems for her.”
John Doughty, sales and marketing director, Orchard, said, “Integrated into Orchard Housing, Communicator is proving very popular with our customers as a communications solution and is currently being trialled at several sites. Newlon was the first customer to use Communicator with Orchard Housing and we have since developed further integration with Orchard Housing so that customers can leverage greater benefits from Orchard Communicator.”
Phillips concluded, “We were recently inspected by the Audit Commission and they were very impressed with our use of Orchard Communicator – it’s an excellent innovation.”