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Learning from complaints – November 2023

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As you’ll know from some of our previous Learning from Complaints blogs, we, much like other housing associations across the country, are working very hard to deal with an increased number of complaints right now. 

We understand that if you have felt the need to make a complaint, you’re already frustrated, and that when you don’t feel like progress is being made, this only makes things worse.  

Our team, thanks to some new recruits, is doing what they can to improve this service to support you when something goes wrong. 

Here’s what we’ve learned from what you’ve told us over the last few months: 

Keeping you updated on your repairs 

When you’ve had to complain about a repair, we appreciate how frustrating it can be to have to chase it up. 

Due to supply chain issues, materials and labour shortages, there are still some big challenges for us in delivering repairs for customers all over the country.  

We understand that when there are delays, you just want to understand what they are and why, so we’re working on improving communication to make sure you’re kept in the loop. 

This includes plans to include lead times for jobs such as new windows and doors so you know when to expect them to be fitted. We’re also asking our contractors inform us of any delays so that we can pass this information on to you. 

One example of this is a pilot we’re running with a contractor to introduce new customer liaison officers who are able to speak directly to customers about their repairs and help us to resolve things quickly when there’s an issue. 

This pilot will also look at the way we prioritise repairs to make sure that the service is more open with you about when we expect jobs to be completed. Taking the example of doors and windows, we know this can take a while for materials to be sourced and manufactured, and can often go over our standard 28 day target time. To manage your expectations, we’re looking at how we can give you a more accurate time for your repairs to be completed.  

We’ll still prioritise emergency repairs (ones that pose a risk to your home or the people living in it, such as water supply failure) aiming to complete them within 24 hours.  We also recognise that, at times, there are repairs that need to be fixed quickly, but not necessarily the same day, trialling a new seven-day priority. 

Repetition, repetition, repetition 

When you make a complaint, the last thing you want is to have to tell your story each and every time you speak to us. 

Some customers have told us that this is the experience they’re having with us, and we’ve been investigating how we can prevent that from happening. 

We’re currently reviewing all of our training on record keeping to ensure that all of our customer facing colleagues know what to do when they speak to you so that information can be logged properly on the system. 

Our management teams are using real examples of where this has happened and sharing it with our teams to demonstrate the impact of what happens when information is missed. 

One huge project that we’re undertaking is introducing a brand-new two-way communication platform, so that you can see the information you’ve provided us and the status of your query. This will help us to move away from older systems where things can get lost. 

Quality of complaint responses 

As we’ve said before, our teams are very busy dealing with a high volume of complaints, but we know this should never be an excuse for poor or late responses to your queries. 

We’re undertaking a much wider project to improve the visibility of complaints so we can make sure they’re responded to on time. In addition, we’ve invested in resource and training which we hope will improve the quality of responses, 

This video for our customer annual review explains a bit more about this work: 

We’ve also been recruiting new people into our complaints team, making sure everyone has what they need to respond to complaints in an acceptable manner. This includes how we speak to you in letters, emails and on the phone. 

We have also asked our complaints team to make sure that any complaints that highlight something that could be high-risk gets shared as soon as possible with the wider business so we can take action on it. 

Individual circumstances 

We look after more than 36,000 homes across the country, and we understand that everyone  is unique. 

With that in mind,  there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to our services,  

 We’re investing more time into recognising individual needs as early as we can so that our responses reflect what we know about our customers. 

This includes more training and support for our colleagues who are acting as single points of contact for customers, reasonable adjustment training, and making sure that the resolution of the complaint reflects the individual circumstances of the customer.