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Double wider community involvement and increase involvement level for a second year

Despite their previous year’s excellent increase to 15.2% of customers involved in their work achieved in just 10 months, WCH have yet again advanced engagement numbers in financial year 2012-13 from 1004 to 1140 individuals. This year there has been a specific focus by WCH on engaging with members of the wider community and this effort resulted in a more than double increase from 215 to 462 individuals.

We decided to ask Pete Adams, Customer involvement advisor at WCH some leading questions on these results to understand what is underpinning their successful customer engagement strategy.

“Fantastic results Pete. You must be delighted?”

 “Yes. We are delighted at being able to announce an increase again in our overall engagement number for the last year. The 1140 number includes all those that hold WCH tenancies plus family members and others from the community. Its important for us to involve all our customers in our work and achieving a broad profile of engagement from all groups is key to delivering excellent services.”

“We’re interested in understanding a little more as to why customer involvement is so important at WCH”

“Customer involvement is something that has been increasing in importance during the last few years. Following the disbanding of regulator the Tenant Services Authority, focus in the sector moved toward co-regulation with an increased government desire for customers to take an active part in monitoring, guiding and even leading on the services they receive from their landlords.

It is now more important than ever before to have a well informed and knowledgeable customer base so that talents may be utilised to improve services. To maintain the WCH value of being Open and Accountable, we work hard to ensure customers have access to the relevant facts and figures (plus a wider knowledge of the sector as a whole), so they may help us to improve the way in which we work.

Developing our customers' capacity is essential if we are to achieve our customer developed vision for involvement:

‘To expand customer involvement and engagement so that all customers have the opportunity to participate in consultation and have a voice to scrutinise and challenge the decision making process.’”

“Why has it been important to involve the wider community at WCH?”

“The input of the wider community has always been seen as important, but often in what could almost be termed as a 'public relations' manner. While PR certainly has its benefits this has increasingly begun to change at WCH.

Many housing organisations (WCH included) pride themselves on the number of 'named tenants' they have involved each year. While this number is certainly important, it should not be forgotten that a huge number of people that are not named on the legal tenancy also live in our properties. Children, families, lodgers... All of these receive services from WCH even if they are not the individual paying the rent.

The social housing sector is expanding to offer an increased product base all the time. WCH increasingly has a leaseholder, shared ownership and market renting customer base - all whom deserve a say in how they receive services from us.

Additionally, the involvement of other service providers (police, health professionals, councillors) in our work is always essential if we are to deliver in a joined up way.

Finally, the input of the wider community is incredibly important - especially as the business focus moves towards the development of new build properties. Without wide community support it would be increasingly difficult to gain the relevant permissions for these projects.”

“So what did you do specifically this year to engage with the wider community?”

“We ran a series of ‘WCH on Tour’ events specifically targeting wider community involvement and the results have been impressive. We use the customer engagement suite to monitor all activities and attendees involved. We have been able to identify wider community interest, record this engagement and build on it.”

Worcester Community Housing have been using the Clearview Customer engagement suite for two years with the specific aim of increasing involvement, monitoring costs and recording outcomes in order that they can make better informed decisions to support their customers and the wider community better with the resources available to them. The software comprises four modules to enable this.

Activity manager – to record and track all outcomes, costs and activities for engagement with community stakeholders

Survey manager – to manage and run interactive surveys with customers such as feedback forms, satisfaction surveys and more

Intelligence and reporting – to analyse and intelligently report on the data generated by the system to inform decisions within the organisation

Customer web site – to open up engagement activity and interact directly with customers via their own online environment. They can complete surveys, register for activities, see documents and photos relating to activities all within the one location.