Review of Communications within the Responsive Repair Service. Progress Housing Group Tenant Scrutiny Panel July 2013

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1 Review of Communications within the Responsive Repair Service Progress Housing Group Tenant Scrutiny Panel July 2013

2 Contents Section Number Page 1. Introduction Methods used for the scrutiny of communication with Customers within the Repairs Service The Panel s Findings Overview of findings Ease of reporting a repair, correctly identifying the repair and communication with the repairs hotline The use of appointments and how these are communicated to the Customer Communication during repairs work being undertaken How satisfaction information is collected and used and how Customers are involved in the service Customer Experience of Communication Support provided for the Scrutiny Review...10 Appendix 2 - Recommendations

3 Scrutiny Panel Report Review of Communications within the Responsive Repairs Service 1. Introduction Repairs and Maintenance is a service that is frequently accessed by Progress Housing Group Customers. Responsive Repairs in particular is a key service area upon which Customers judge the quality and responsiveness of their landlord. The Scrutiny Panel identified through a range of Customer Involvement activities that communication with Customers within the Responsive Repair Service was causing concern. The Scrutiny Panel chose to explore this topic with a view to examining and improving communication within the service. The Panel focused the Scrutiny Review on New Progress Housing Association, New Fylde Housing Association and Progress Care Housing Association. Different repair reporting arrangements are in place within LiLAC and Progress Living therefore these were not examined as part of this Scrutiny. The Panel when considering communication with Customers within the Repairs Service set themselves the following scope: To consider: Ease of reporting a repair and correctly identifying the repair The use of appointments and how these are communicated to the Customer Communication during repairs work being undertaken How satisfaction information is collected and used and how Customers are involved in the service. The overall Customer experience of communication. The Panel intended that by focusing on these areas the following could be achieved: Improved communication between Progress Housing Group and its Customers A reduction in complaints resulting from communication issues within the service. 2. Methods used for the scrutiny of communication with Customers within the Repairs Service The Panel used a variety of methods to gather a range of information in relation to communication within the Repairs Service. These included: Review of Customer Information Leaflets and Service Standards Review of information available on the website 3

4 Survey of Progress Care Customers who attended forums on the use of leaflets and ease of access to reporting repairs. Analysis of complaint information Telephone survey of ten Customers Briefing by Customer Services Centre Manager and Scheduling and Systems Manager on Responsive Repairs Service Review of the Customer satisfaction survey and analysis of the results Review of how mystery shopping is used to assess satisfaction with the service Call listening of fifty calls Mapping of the communications process within responsive repairs with the Customer Services Centre Manager Interview with Head of Contract Services and Operations 3. The Panel s Findings 3.1 Overview of findings The Panel found that reporting a repair was an easy, accessible service for Customers with a wide range of methods available for repair reporting. The Customer Services Centre team offer a good service and overall staff were found to be polite and helpful. A wide range of clear information is available to Customers to assist with repair reporting. Once a repair has been reported we found a variety of methods were in place to communicate with the Customer regarding the work. Some Customers receive an appointment, which is clearly communicated to them and confirmed in writing and by text. For those Customers who are unable to obtain an appointment they are reliant on PHG staff contacting them to arrange the repair, which results in uncertainty for the Customer on when work will be undertaken. From the evidence we have reviewed our biggest concern is how the Repairs Service communicates with Customers when further work is required. The Customer has no clear point of contact to find out what is happening with outstanding work. Staff at the Customer Services Centre cannot access information on how a repair is progressing and there is no specific procedure in place as to how and when Repairs Staff update the Customer on progress with work. From our review the Panel feel that communication within the current system is focused on the convenience of the company rather than the needs of the Customer. We feel that an overall review of communication, placing the Customer at the heart of the process would be advantageous for both the Company and the Customer. The report is broken down into five key areas where strengths and areas for improvement with the service have been identified. Recommendations for service improvement are detailed in each section. 4

5 3.2 Ease of reporting a repair, correctly identifying the repair and communication with the repairs hotline The Panel examined the range of opportunities available to Customers to report repairs and how effective they were and identified the following: Strengths A clear and comprehensive leaflet is available to Customers across the Group that outlines how Customers can report repairs and what to expect when they report a repair. Repairs leaflets from across the Group are easily accessible online for those Customers who have access to the Internet. All Progress Care Customers receive the repairs leaflet at sign up and copies are available at schemes. The Progress Care DVD clearly explains to Customers how to report an initial repair. Customers across the Group have the facility of reporting a repair on line. The website contains a range of information to help the Customer to identify their repair accurately. There are clear instructions on what to do if the diagrams do not apply, and there is a facility for Customers to write their own report and send a photograph if they wish. It is easy to report a repair by telephone and most calls are answered after no more than 6 rings. Our review of mystery shopping reports, our telephone survey and call listening identified that overall Customers found the Customer Services Centre Staff to be professional, helpful and informative. Telephones are available in Sumner House and Warwick House that enables Customers to speak directly to the Customer Services Centre free of charge. Areas for improvement New Progress and New Fylde Customers are not routinely issued with the repairs leaflet. On two separate occasions both Warwick House and Sumner House were checked to see if the leaflets were available. Warwick House had limited supplies of the leaflets on display; none were on display at Sumner House but were available upon request at Reception. It is unlikely that Customers would request this information, as they would not know it is available. The leaflet for New Progress and New Fylde Customers does not make it clear when you report a repair by phone who is responsible for dealing with your repair. The leaflet refers to the Customer Services Team and the Repairs Hotline but does not define what their roles are within the service. This could cause confusion for Customers who need to know who is responsible for their repair. 5

6 Not all Progress Care Customers are encouraged and supported to report their own repairs. Whilst we note that many Progress Care Customers may not wish to do this or be able to do this, our survey of Progress Care Customers indicated that a number of Customers wished to report their own repairs. Some Customers identified that Support Staff encourage them to report repairs to the Support Staff, rather than directly to PHG. This results in all communication regarding repairs going to the Support Worker rather than directly to the Customer. The Panel's view is that this is counter to assisting and enabling Customers of Progress Care to be as independent as possible. We note that there have been 485 repairs reported via the web in the last twelve months. The Panel feels if this number were to increase the Housecall service would provide better value for money. There is some variation in the quality of Customer Service from the Customer Services Centre. Mystery shopping and call listening indicates there is some dissatisfaction with the manner of some Call Handlers, and on occasion callers were kept waiting for up to three minutes on an automated answer machine for their call to be answered. There can be confusion between Customer Services Centre Staff and Support Workers who report repairs on behalf of Progress Care Customers on repairing responsibilities. Call listening evidence indicated debates took place between Support Workers and Customer Services Centre Staff regarding who should take responsibility for addressing repair issues. This can cause conflict between Customer Services Centre Staff and Support Workers and result in confusion for Progress Care Customers as to who is responsible for undertaking a repair. Recommendations 1) A summary of all the current information leaflets that are available to New Fylde, New Progress and Progress Care Customers should be regularly printed in the newsletter. The Repairs Leaflet in particular should be hi- lighted that it is available when there are articles on repairs issues. 2) Staff members should ensure that all current leaflets are on display at all times in reception areas. 3) A Review to take place with Customers about the Repairs Leaflet, and consider whether a leaflet is required on the service and whether Customers value accessing information in this way. 3a) If a leaflet is required it should clearly detail who takes responsibility for taking repairs and for following up work, how Support Workers and others can report repairs on behalf of a Customer and consider use of pictorial aids to assist with repair reporting. 4) Progress Care to work with Support Workers to ensure that Progress Care Customers, if they wish, can report repairs by themselves or with support. 5) Awareness to be raised that Customers can report a repair online and increase the 6

7 numbers accessing this service to make it more cost effective. 6) The Group to offer regular refresher training on communication techniques for Customer Services Centre staff. 7) Enable all Customers to report a repair directly to staff at the Customer Services Centre without being placed on an automated answering service. Review how frequently and for what length of time Customers have to wait before a Staff Member answers their call. A Customer Involvement mechanism should monitor this and in conjunction with Staff set targets set on this. 8) Clear guidance to be issued to Support Workers and Customer Services Centre Staff on repairing responsibilities. 3.3 The use of appointments and how these are communicated to the Customer The Panel explored the Customer experience of using the appointment system and the effectiveness of it. Strengths When an appointment is given, this is clearly communicated to the Customer via a text message and the repairs receipt. Areas for Improvement Appointments are only available for certain trades, if the repair work is outside of those trades an appointment will not be given. The Customer has to wait for a Repairs Operative to contact them to arrange when the work will be done. The Customer cannot obtain an appointment for follow up work from the Customer Services Centre or information on how their repair is progressing. The call listening and communication mapping indicated that Customers when chasing a repair have to wait for the Customer Services Centre or Repairs Operative to call them to let them know what is happening with their repair. This creates uncertainty and frustration for Customers. Some Customers decline appointments, as they are aware that their repair may be carried out more quickly by not having one, due to how work is scheduled. This indicates that the current appointment system is not meeting Customer need and providing appointments in a timely manner. The system of repair receipts has been used for a number of years without review. The Panel could find no recent evidence on when they were last reviewed with Customers to assess their effectiveness and whether they provide value for money. The Panel identified that other landlords confirm repair orders in a variety of ways 7

8 including letters, text message confirmations, online tracking and the use of Smartphone apps. Feedback from ten Customers when asked to consider the repair receipt by the Panel, indicated that the receipts looked outdated and often arrive after the job has been completed. Many felt that Customers should choose their preferred method of repair confirmation. Recommendations 9) Improve the appointment system throughout the repairs process so Customers quickly and easily can obtain information on when their repair will be undertaken. 10) Review the repair receipt with Customers and explore its effectiveness, value for money and consider other methods which may be used to confirm repair work. 3.4 Communication during repairs work being undertaken The Panel with the Customer Services Centre Manager undertook a detailed mapping of the communication process from start to finish when reporting a repair. An interview was conducted with Head of Contract Services and Operations to fully understand how the Customer is communicated with when work is underway. Strengths Due to the ad- hoc nature of communication with the Customer once work is being undertaken the Panel could find no strengths in this area. Areas for improvement Follow up visits and additional works are not clearly communicated to the Customer. Our reviews of Customer complaints, mystery shopping reports and call listening identify that Customers are not always kept updated on what is happening with their repair and often Customers have to chase up work themselves. It is not routine for a PHG Operative to contact a Customer to update them on how their repair is progressing, or the reason for the delay if it is not progressing. There is no tracking of a repair across the Group whilst it is with an Operative to complete, therefore the Customer Services Centre cannot advise Customers on what is happening with their repair. We found evidence of Customers becoming angry and frustrated with the lack of communication, this also impacts negatively on Customer Services Centre staff. The Panel found this area to be the biggest cause of dissatisfaction amongst Customers with the service. 8

9 Recommendations 11) If a repair is not resolved on a first visit, Customers need to be given clear and timely information on when the work will be completed and whom they should contact if they have any queries. The Panel would like to see detailed actions on this area to see how this can be achieved. 3.5 How satisfaction information is collected and used and how Customers are involved in the service. The Panel reviewed the Customer satisfaction survey results and return rates. They analysed the mystery shopping reports and considered how the information is used to improve the service. Strengths A range of involvement opportunities are in place to enable Customers to monitor how the service is performing. Clear performance information is published in the newsletter, which updates all Customers on how the service is performing. All Customers have the opportunity to complete a Customer Survey and give their views on the service. Areas for improvement Mystery shopping only assesses satisfaction with the Repairs Service at the first point of contact. Mystery shoppers do not record what happens with their repair from start to finish. As a result this method does not assess the quality of communication whilst repair work is being undertaken. The repairs satisfaction survey has a low return rate; in 2012/13 it was 7%, which is a decrease from previous years. Although satisfaction results from the survey are high, it is based on a small number of returns and may not be truly reflective of the Customer experience of the service. The repairs satisfaction survey, in comparison with ones we have seen from other landlords is not user friendly. It does not ask meaningful questions on the Customer's experience of the service and is sent at the start of the repair process. This means it could be easy for the Customer to lose the survey or forget to complete it, particularly if the work will take a number of weeks to complete. Recommendations 12) Real time mystery shopping should be implemented to assess satisfaction with the Repairs Service from start to end. 13) An involvement mechanism should be established for Customers to be more involved in the development, delivery and monitoring of the Responsive Repairs Service. The Panel would like to see that the recommendations and actions from this report are monitored and followed by this Customer Involvement mechanism. 9

10 14) Explore with Customers different ways of obtaining Customer satisfaction information, for example use of telephone surveys, e- mail and texting to increase the numbers of Customers who provide satisfaction information on the service. 3.6 Customer Experience of Communication The Panel explored the range of communication methods used within the Responsive Repairs Service. Recommendations in sections 3.1 to 3.4 largely focus on improvements that could be made to the existing system. As part of its review the Panel has examined a range of ways in which other landlords communicate during their responsive service and has found a number of landlords who have developed their service based on how their Customers want to access the service rather than how the landlord wants to deliver it to them. For example, Kier Stoke redesigned their Responsive Repair service based on delivering one outcome for Customers To complete repairs at a convenient time for our Customer. Customers who use the service tell Kier Stoke when it is convenient for them for a repair to be undertaken. This could be the same day, the following day or the following week according to the Customers requirements. Wrekin Housing Trust offers a same day repair service for some of their repair work. Offering the service in a different way changes the way the Customer is communicated with. For example, a same day service means there is no need for repairs confirmations and also reduces no access when operatives visit. Whilst the Panel are not looking to replicate systems from other landlords, the Panel feels it is time for a review of how the Repairs Service is delivered and the communication issues this creates. Rather than designing a system and then considering how to communicate this to Customers we feel any new system should be designed with meeting Customer need at its centre. We anticipate that this would improve communication processes both for Customers and Staff. Recommendations 15) Place communication with the Customer at the centre of any Responsive Repair Review to inform PHG on service delivery. The Panel anticipate that these recommendations will be responded to using the table attached at Appendix Support provided for the Scrutiny Review The Panel wishes to express its thanks to all those staff members who have supported and assisted with this Scrutiny Review. 10

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