Housing management has long been the engine room for any housing provider’s service provision to its customers. Its basic premise and offer has largely remained unchanged for decades, although the age old argument of ‘generic vs specialist’ is rapidly becoming overtaken by the new kid on the block, ‘social versus commercial’ as the effect of welfare reform on businesses and customers creates a necessary impetus for changing the housing management model many landlords rely upon.
To survive and even thrive in this new environment we need to be open to transforming the way we think about and deliver housing management services. We need to really focus upon what are core landlord services and invest in making sure that we deliver them consistently and well.
To do this we need to truly embrace tenants as customers and understand what they value about our housing management and invest our time and resources accordingly.
But we also need to balance this with introducing greater clarity and emphasis on the contractual relationship between landlord and tenant. The rent cut and other factors mean greater adherence to the contracts which could result in us saying no to things we may have done for many years.
We need to embrace new ways of working – digital; mobile; contact centres – so that we deliver our services in a different, more efficient, but no less effective way.
It is also an opportunity for us to stop our good intentioned but paternalistic approach to our customers; it isn’t helpful for either party and in challenging times, a hand up rather than a handout must be our housing management philosophy.
In doing so we shouldn’t be afraid that we are selling our soul to the commercial devil and abandoning our long held principles of social justice and helping those in housing need.
We can still do and should do all of this, but unless we change our relationship with the customer and our housing management model we won’t be in business long enough to help anybody.