This is not just about our customer service – although getting this right depends upon us doing this brilliantly. It’s about the relationships we have, and those we build, and the level of trust that underpins these.
Mark Henderson is Chief Executive of Home Group
21 February 2019
The trust that people have in companies and institutions today is probably at its lowest point in a very long time. From Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to Westminster and Brexit, and plenty in between. Peoples’ faith in organisations is eroding fast – organisations that play such important parts in their lives.
People need to feel assured by those in which they put their trust. At Home Group we have understood that for quite some time and we are working hard to ensure that’s the case.
There is some very good work going on in housing associations up and down the country to further enhance relationships with customers and improve accountability. But we need to acknowledge it’s not cohesive nor consistent.
We, as a housing sector, have been shaken to the core by the fire at Grenfell Tower and the tragic loss of life it brought.
We need to make sure that our customers don’t lose trust in us, in the same way that people have lost trust in other sectors or organisations.
How can we rebuild trust?
We need to answer some difficult questions. Are we being as ambitious as we can be? Are we truly hearing what our customers tell us and are we acting on it? Can we stand as one sector and be confident we are consistent? And crucially, do our customers agree with us?
There’s some really great examples across the sector of where this works well. But not everyone is living up to this standard, and there isn’t enough sharing of what good looks like.
At Home Group, we are proud of our track record in our award winning customer engagement, but we know we can be better. That is why we have been having regular and in-depth conversations with our customers throughout the country for the last ten months about what they expect from us, and what should happen if things go wrong.
But this won’t be effective if we’re all doing our own things. Working together doesn’t really work if we’re in silos.
We need to be able to show our customers, the government and other stakeholders that we’re consistent across the sector and that we’re serious about being the best we can be.
Together with Tenants will help us rebuild that trust
The Federation’s Together with Tenants draft plan is a positive step in this journey of continuous self-improvement, and Home Group are very pleased to be one of the early adopters that will take the plan – currently under consultation – and implement it.
This is our opportunity to work together, as a sector and with our customers, to develop a shared understanding of what good looks like and to make sure we can stand together, confident that we are consistently delivering on the eight commitments.
Every one of our customers has the right to a good relationship with their housing association. However, a relationship is a very personal thing and this doesn’t look the same to every customer or organisation. This is why one-size fits all, hard and fast rules will neither work nor be genuine.
Your organisation will be very different to mine, so in order to make this work for everyone it’s important that you share your feedback on the current draft plan.
What we need is a sector-wide commitment to the principle: every housing association has the responsibility to make sure that our customers can have the relationship they want with us.
Together with Tenants is a very good yardstick for how this will work. As a group of early adopters (there are now almost 50 of us), we are organisations of all shapes, sizes and areas. Our customers come from different backgrounds, perspectives and lived experiences.
This is about us standing together, as a sector, to confirm our commitment to working together with our tenants. This is about sharing what we do brilliantly now and really challenging each other to be better. This is about trust.