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Investing in our homes and services

Investing in our homes and services

Property director Stephen Collins describes how Property Plus puts the customer at the heart of everything they do.

We’re committed to delivering an outstanding repair and maintenance service to over 12,000 customers across Shropshire and Staffordshire. We work hard to ensure we exceed our customers’ expectations and regularly partner with them to develop and improve our services.

Feedback from the last STAR survey told us that repairs are a number one priority for tenants and something that they felt we could improve upon.

We acted quickly on this feedback, undertaking an in-depth review and overhaul of the repairs service. A new rapid response triage and improved service level standards for responsive and heating repairs were launched, resulting in increased levels of customer satisfaction.

Grounds maintenance services were also brought in-house in Staffordshire, enabling us to employ 12 local people, save £130k and deliver more. This resounding success is hoped to be replicated in Shropshire during 2019.

The far-reaching transformation of our services during the year also saw the property teams being recognised nationally at numerous awards ceremonies, including Housing Heroes and UK Housing Awards.

Investing in our homes and services

It was another extremely busy year for the team who delivered over 25,000 responsive repairs and nearly 4,500 emergency repairs. Customer satisfaction remained high with 93% of customers across the year, satisfied with the repair service they received.

At a time when many housing associations have had to cut their investment in housing maintenance, we have been able to invest over £21m in repairing and maintaining our homes. £7.5m of which was spent improving customers’ homes, enabling us to:

  • Fit 372 new kitchens
  • Supply 694 energy-efficient boilers
  • Install 701 new bathrooms and wet rooms
  • Fix 504 external doors
  • Rewire 63 homes and 2 retirement living schemes
  • Carry out 2,060 home MOTs

A further £2m was also invested in refurbishing and updating a number of the Group’s retirement living schemes.

New services

Developed with a clear understanding of our customers’ priorities, the launch of the new rapid response triage represented a very significant change to our service delivery. Customer feedback from the first quarter of this year is showing an impressive rise in satisfaction with our repairs service from 93% to 97%.

Just like a nursing triage, when a customer calls to report an urgent or emergency repair our experienced team spend time diagnosing the problem before giving it an appropriate repair classification.

Initially a pilot project, customers loved the new approach so much that in December, Phase 2 was rolled-out with extended operating hours of 8.30am – 6pm and the management of all repairs taking up to one hour to complete.

Feedback tells us that customers particularly like that their repair is dealt with swiftly and efficiently and that the majority of repairs are completed during the first visit. Follow-up appointments are arranged there and then, which also reassures customers that we have everything under control and that they won’t need to chase up what’s happening with their repair.

The introduction of our improved responsive and heating repairs service level standards reduced the average number of days taken to complete a repair from 9 to just over 4 days, well within our target of 17 days.

Compliance – keeping our customers safe

As a landlord, we have important legal duties and obligations to safeguard our customers and their homes. Last year we carried out in excess of 18,000 Safety First inspections, including 9,826 gas safety checks and 3,293 electrical tests. Safety compliance for all areas across the Group was 99%.

Housing Plus Group has a strong safety culture from front line staff to our board members, with compliance being a standing board agenda item. Compliance is led by our specialist asset management team, whilst also remaining an important responsibility of every business function across the Group.

Responding to a changing landscape and anticipating emerging statutory requirements is vital to ensure the ongoing safety of our customers and colleagues.

Post Grenfell, a new landscape emerged with a greater emphasis on fire safety. New guidance issued by the government led to the Group needing to evaluate the performance of every fire door in our homes and communal buildings. As part of our ongoing commitment to customer safety, we have made a pledge to inspect every one of our 4,000 fire doors, twice a year.  We have also appointed a dedicated fire risk assessment team to undertake this crucial work.

By partnering with technology company, Gas Tag our tenants were some of the first in the country to benefit from ground-breaking technology installed at their home to keep them, their family and neighbours safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Described by the All Party Parliamentary Carbon Monoxide Group as “A quantum leap in domestic gas safety compliance”, we are working with Gas Tag to take this innovation a step further by extending the technology to other key safety areas, including fire risk, asbestos and water assessments.

Looking forward

I am extremely proud of every single property team colleague and the outstanding contribution they make year-on-year to deliver amazing results, against challenging operational targets.

By launching new ground-breaking, cost-efficient services and working practices and investing in colleague training and development, Property Plus has been able to boost customer satisfaction and secure its long-term financial position.

Our continued success relies on innovation and transformation, whether that’s the introduction of a new in-house service and team structure, requiring fast reskilling or the development of an app to improve grounds maintenance.

We will seek to obtain even higher levels of customer satisfaction by delivering an exceptional repair and maintenance service that we can all be proud of.