08 November 2023
After the covid pandemic, several heart-breaking stories in the media and with the ongoing cost of living crisis, it was clear to us at Prima Housing that we needed to change the way we engaged with residents. In March 2023, we started the ‘Big Door Knock’.
The aim of the Big Door Knock was to get behind every door and speak to every resident individually, to find out how they were and if there was any support they needed. The emphasis was on really listening to residents. It was also an opportunity for us to make sure our resident data was accurate and up to date, and to inspect the quality of the property for outstanding repairs, or any damp or mould.
The Big Door Knock was also about culture change within Prima Housing so we adopted a ‘one team’ approach, involving staff from every department across the organisation. We wanted as many staff as possible, regardless of their role, to really understand the residents they’re working for.
The project was trialled first and adapted following feedback from resident groups. We sent postcards to each resident to advise what days we are on their street and why. Door knockers were fully prepared and equipped with a tablet used to complete a carefully worded survey with each resident. Behind the scenes, we had staff processing actions identified by the surveys right away. This ensured all elements of the visit were captured but the conversation with the resident was the important thing, having that chat and listening to what they had to say.
Prima set new budgets up for this project so that repairs could be addressed straight away. We also set up a budget for any additional support that may be required.
We also established partnerships with local community groups and services, including a food pantry that many residents were not aware of. During each visit, residents were given a booklet detailing available support. We also promoted the food pantry and the uptake for it was significant.
It was a challenge to ensure the technical side supported how we wanted it to work. The support from our IT Team helped with the form and the processes. We also had to adapt to accommodate the impact on staff resource and business continuity. Sometimes getting access to residents in their homes was a challenge too, so we created online surveys and mop up days.
Feedback from customers has been really positive. They appreciated us coming to them. From a data point of view we have improved what we know about residents, especially around health issues and vulnerabilities that had not been disclosed to us previously. This has helped us to target those families with more support, including minor adaptations in homes.
We were pleased too about how many residents wanted to be involved with Prima and to have a say – 19% of our residents expressed an interest in being involved with our customer voice board, scrutiny panels, street reps, resident groups, which really boosts customer involvement within Prima.
We have so far also identified 21% of the homes we visited had damp/mould issues. The majority of cases were minor and the majority of these cases had not been previously reported to Prima. We were able to assess and treat these issues quickly, and monitor these properties going forward, it has been a great help for us to get into these homes and proactively to deal with damp or mould at an early stage.
The biggest impact has been on residents and the families we spoke to who were really struggling. 43% of the residents we spoke to were struggling financially to pay bills and buy food and we were able to help with food, electric and gas vouchers, and link them up with ongoing internal and external support. Again, the majority of these families had not contacted Prima for help and knowing more about our residents and their lives enables us to better support them.
The Big Door Knock revealed to us just how great the challenge is for us reaching residents who wouldn’t normally contact us. We’re now hoping a review of our operating model will ensure greater visibility and presence in our communities.
There has to be commitment from top for a project like this to succeed. Establishing a one team approach was invaluable with regular communication and feedback. Planning enough time for the project to be effective and for us to get behind every door was also key, as was early and regular communications with residents.
It’s necessary to make sure the approach is resident-focused and to ensure follow on actions are completed. Make sure all information collected is filtered through to CRM and other data bases.
I would advise other housing associations to plan correctly because a project on this scale has an impact on resources and staff time. Listen to staff and residents – this was critical for us and shaped the project for all involved.