The digital revolutionaries

Twelve months ago RHP launched the UK’s first digital only housing service and last month they took the bold step of rolling it out to all of their customers. Here, I reflect on what’s been a truly revolutionary year for the organisation and some believe could transform the world of social housing.

Protecting Children and Young People in the Digital Environment

We billed 2016/17 as our ‘year of innovation’ and it doesn’t get much bolder than launching the UK’s first all-digital housing service, RHPi.

Our answer to combatting the housing crisis, it was designed to lower costs whilst also improving service.

The idea behind it is simple, new customers get a good quality home on a five year fixed term tenancy, are entitled to essential and emergency repairs and have 24/7 access to online services.

These include a two hour slot to book a repairs appointment/ web chat 8am – 8pm, quick & simple ways to make payments and an e-communities discussion forum.

And the best bit? If someone is in a position to move on after five years and have been a responsible tenant they’ll be given £1,000 cash back – a helping hand for their next step.

So a year on, how’s it gone? Well, firstly, the thing we’re proudest of is the overall satisfaction rate of RHPi customers which is currently 94%.

RHPi customers have pinpointed that they find our online services easy and convenient and that it fits in with their lifestyle, which is music to our ears. Our bottom line has also benefitted from this new way of doing business as we’ve had a 30% reduction in customer contact costs.

In February, Housemark published an ‘enhanced’ version of the Homes and Communities Agency’s global accounts cost analysis and we were thrilled that the data showed RHP to have the second lowest total operating cost per unit of £3,424 (out of any organisation in the list that has over 50% of its operations in London excluding solely shared ownership providers.)

Proof you can reduce costs and improve service at the same time!

We treated the launch to new customers as a pilot for rolling out the services to existing tenants.

Therefore after a successful consultation last year, as of last month all customers now benefit from receiving our RHPi services (apart from the small majority who have been identified as non-digital, in which case they can still call us)-meaning they contact us in a digital way rather than over the phone, access services via our website and have an essential and emergency repairs service.

Although this sounds like a massive leap, we’ve spent a number of years getting our customers ready for this move. Before we’d even moved to digital only services, a large proportion of our customers were engaged with us online. Here are just some of our digital highlights from 2016-17:

  • 73% everyday repairs booked online
  • over 10,000 webchats taking place
  • over 2,500 customer supported to get online.

Although it’s early days, the first signs have been positive, in the first week alone calls reduced by 7% and webchats increased by 50%, and feedback from customers has been optimistic.

We’re also running on-going digital sessions for any of our customers who’re not confident online to keep supporting them with the transition

We passionately believe that modernising our services in this way, will help us keep our customer’s future rent affordable whilst providing even better services that are quick and simple to use. Lowering our operating costs also means we can commit to investing at least £250m over the next eight years, providing up to 2,000 new affordable homes.

If I were to give any advice to an organisation looking to progress their digital offering I’d recommend: be brave and bold – your customers will be more ready for the move than you might think, make sure your employees understand why you’re making the changes (they’ll need to be your biggest advocates in nudging customers online) and focus on the ease of your services.

We can’t wait to see what the new year has in store and how the service evolves alongside further digital enhancement. We have plenty more up our sleeve!