Leading housing associations pledge to improve the quality and access of online services

Several leading housing associations and social housing landlords from across the UK have pledged to improve the quality and access of their online services.

The organisations, including Northwards Housing, Plus Dane Housing, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and West Kent, have all committed to the pledge, which was launched at an event hosted by Peaks & Plains Housing Trust, digital user experience (UX) agency Sigma and housing software provider, Capita.

After successfully launching an inclusive, online-based system, which allows tenants to access repair services directly from its website, Peaks & Plains Housing Trust organised the event to share best practice on effectively transferring services online.

By highlighting the importance of user experience and website design when developing digital, self-service systems, the event organisers wanted to encourage other housing associations to improve their online offering. The channel shift for Peaks & Plains has been a huge success, with initial studies showing that the estimated cost per transaction has reduced from £3.10 for services provided over the phone to just 10p through the online self-service solution.

UX experts, technical teams and repairs managers were on hand to share their insights and discuss the unique approach of Peaks & Plains’ system, as well as the benefits of incorporating a customer and operative-centred approach.

During the event, the attending housing association representatives were asked to sign up to the commitment and others are being urged to follow suit.

Simon Wissink, account manager at digital UX agency Sigma, said:

“In the housing sector, providing a good online experience can increase tenant engagement, improve customer service, simplify processes and cut costs.

“However, we recently conducted research into the online user experience of UK housing associations and found that seven in 10 websites scored below average (50 per cent) when it came to accessibility. This is despite it being important that everyone, including those with visual, cognitive, auditory, or physical impairments, can access the site and its online services.

“It’s in the best interests of all associations and social landlords to bring their online experience up to scratch and offer inclusive, quality services, so it’s great to see so many taking this seriously and pledging to make a beneficial change.”

Neil Bancroft, head of service improvement at Peaks & Plains Housing Trust, said:

“At Peaks & Plains, our main purpose is to help improve lives, and by refining our online service and improving our user experience we have made it easier for tenants to access the information they need. Since the launch of our online repairs booking service we’ve been approached by several housing organisations asking how we did it. So we arranged this event to share our unique approach and encourage other housing associations to get on board.”

The event took place at Peaks & Plains Housing Trust on Newton Street in Macclesfield.