Richmond Housing Partnership has reported that it is the first housing association in the UK to give tenants the ability to book two-hour repair appointments online, following the launch of the Microsoft Dynamics-based system in October 2011.
Using web services technology, customers can now book a specific arrival slot for a repairs operative rather than having to wait at home for an entire morning or afternoon. Customers use the same diagnostic user interface (DUI) as RHP’s contact centre staff, meaning that any details communicated from one to the other are clear from the start.
RHP and its repairs partner Mears Group originally standardised their systems in 2003 using Microsoft SQL Server, with RHP establishing a data warehouse to manage the real-time synchronisation of repairs and other data between the two companies. The online repairs system further builds on the SQL Server platform through the use of Microsoft Dynamics and web services technology.
RHP was supported by a number of partners on the project. Goldcrest Solutions worked alongside RHP’s technical team to build the platform and workflows in Microsoft Dynamics, Emerald Design helped with the integration of Dynamics into the website and with third-party systems, and Moorhouse Consultancy provided specialist transformation design and programme management expertise, allowing the new software to be integrated with RHP’s contact centre and repairs functions.
An RHP tenant involved in testing the system said, “I give the whole system 10 out of 10. You know exactly what has been logged and when because you have access to exactly the same screens as employees in the contact centre. And the time slots are excellent, plus they actually work; if you book for between 8am and 10am, the operative arrives within those times.”
The new system is also improving general communication between RHP and its customers as more and more customers are encouraged to register for an online account. This is something that the company is keen to do, as a sponsor of Housing Technology and Race Online 2012’s ‘Digital by Default’ report.
Jonathan Creaser, head of ICT, Richmond Housing Partnership, speaking at the House of Commons alongside Martha Lane-Fox at the launch of the report, said, “We are committed to providing useful and practical online services to our customers so that they can have access to what they need, whenever they want.
“We believe that working with like-minded partners, such as Emerald Design, Goldcrest Solutions and Moorhouse Consultancy, can help to broaden our horizons and give our customers the very best that new technology can deliver. Next we will be looking at a similar system for gas repairs and servicing.”