Communication

Approved by Board May 2017

Tenants are better able to access appropriate services based on clear information

Summary

NPT Homes is continuing to make good progress towards our main outcome ‘tenants are better able to access appropriate services based on clear information.’

A new Communications Strategy (copy available in the policies folder on the Board Member Intranet) was approved by the Board in Autumn 2016 which aims to improve the organisation’s ability to connect meaningfully with tenants, employees and other stakeholders to enhance their engagement with the organisation and learn from their feedback e.g. through compliments and complaints. The range of methods of communication continue to expand, maximising the use of technology and making it easier for customers to get in touch in the ways they prefer.

The Armchair Readers group proof-read and amend publications to tenants to ensure they are written in a format that can be easily read and understood by everyone, taking into consideration diverse literacy levels among our tenant population. We provide these key publications, which include clear and accountable performance information, in a format the suits the reader.

As a Community Housing Mutual, the organisation listens, learns and acts on information from customers and partners through service reviews and co-design work. For example, a co-design review of General Membership is currently taking place. This will include reviewing what Membership means, how it benefits members and adds value to the organisation.

The Customer Experience corporate priority project has identified the current experience customers have with the range of services provided. During 2016 the project focused on improving the telephone experience, with training developed by staff, for staff; 99% of staff have now completed the training. There is still quite a journey ahead for the project with work to do to develop service standards, map the customer journey against our key processes, improve the range of methods we use to engage with our customers and measure customer satisfaction.

What difference do we want to make? (Main Outcome)

Communications Strategy

Our 3 year Communications Strategy was approved by Board in Autumn 2016 and aims to improve our ability to connect meaningfully with tenants, employees and other stakeholders so we can enhance their engagement with our organisation and learn from their feedback.

Under the previous strategy, practices were focussed on positive public communications around Welsh Housing Quality Standard achievements, reactive communications and a responsible, cautious approach. This was the right approach in the early stage of the organisation’s development. Traditional communication with tenants has also been largely print based, which is costly, dated and unresponsive.

The next few years will look quite different for the organisation and our stakeholders. Latest Ofcom data referenced in the Communications Strategy document indicates the growth in access to digital services. Meanwhile, as our operating environment becomes more challenging, we need to become increasingly engaged and efficient as an organisation.

The Communications Strategy aims to mirror these trends and become a catalyst for change wherever possible. The focus will be on using technology to make better connections between and with tenants, reducing print wherever it can be shown that alternatives work better.

As all tenant facing roles become equipped with new technology such as iPads, we will continually innovate and explore the communications potential this offers. In the coming three years, the potential to connect meaningfully with increasing numbers of stakeholders while enriching the roles of employees will be continually explored and evaluated.

The Communications action plan (copy available in the policies folder on the Board Member Intranet) will be reviewed every six months to evaluate its impact and progress towards the communications aims. This will ensure it continues to respond to the communication needs of residents, employees and stakeholders and that it plays a key role in delivering the Corporate Plan.

All communication campaigns will be evaluated to identify how well they are working and feedback will always be encouraged.

Indicators of success will include:

  • Evidence via future surveys that employees are more engaged, clear about our visions and objectives, have effective communication skills and are provided with guidance and support

  • Social media statistics via Social Sign in

  • Internet usage statistics

  • Intranet usage statistics

  • App usage

  • Regular polls and surveys of tenants and other stakeholders.

 

Tenants understand the range of services we provide

There are a number of ways in which NPT Homes helps tenants to understand the range of services we provide. Below are examples of how we do this:

Readability

Our Armchair Readers group is responsible for giving our publications the ‘Tenant Tick’, a stamp of approval ensuring that it meets the requirements of the Corporate Style Guide. This includes checking:

  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation is correct

  • Everything is in a readable font, style, size, format and colour

  • That we avoid abbreviations as far as possible

  • Messages are clear and meaningful

  • Sentences are short and snappy

  • Information is accurate and relevant.

 

Being part of the armchair readers group gives me the opportunity to have my say on key tenant publications. As the publications are sent to me via email I can look at them in my own time from the comfort of my own home which is really convenient

We asked one of our Armchair Readers what being part of the group means to him.

Getting Involved

The range of ways that tenants can get involved and make a difference to the organisation helps to build their understanding of the range of services we provide. For example, the Academy has worked hard over the last 12 months to self-evaluate our performance. This has involved the group meeting with a variety of staff from across the organisation and learning about how the organisation operates. This has built a real understanding of the range of services we provide, not just front-facing services but also support services like governance and finance.

Here’s a quote from one of our Academy members:

As a member of the Academy I have much more of an insight into how NPT Homes works than before I joined... it's very encouraging to see the way staff have integrated with tenants and are willing to listen and take ideas on board.

Visual Impairment

Understanding the range of services we provide can be particularly difficult for people with a visual impairment. There are currently nearly 100,000 people in Wales who are living with sight loss and over the next 25 years the number of people with sight loss is expected to double. Over a fifth of people with sight loss live in social housing.

There are a number of ways we help tenants with a visual impairment to understand our services. Below are some examples.

Moving forward, we will seek to capture and log communications requirements for customers with a visual impairments and deliver services based on those requirements.

Publications in a Format to Suit

Key publications include a message reminding tenants that there are alternative formats available, including large print, braille or audio.

For example this message is included on our Tenant Information Pack issued to all new tenants at sign up.

Tenant Information Pack alternative formats

Our Grapevine Magazine is sent to all tenants.

A large print version is sent to all those who have requested it and we always include a reminder to all that its available in alternative formats.

Grapevine alternative formats

RNIB Visibly Better

Visibly Better Cymru is RNIB’s accreditation scheme for supported housing in Wales. Organisations work towards six standards, which focus on different aspects of accessibility, and receive Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of accreditation as they progress through the standards.

In early 2014 staff from the Tenant Empowerment Team and the RNIB joined forces in the aim to set up a group of Haven Housing tenants to receive training which would enable them to assist NPT Homes to achieve the RNIB Visibly Better Standard and to also:

  • Identify a number of common sight loss conditions
  • Understand the importance of colour and tonal contrasts
  • Use a light meter to measure the light reflective value of surfaces
  • Understand the importance of adequate lighting for those with sight loss
  • Support those with sight loss conditions to live independently in their home for longer
  • Effectively carry out audits of all communal areas and identify areas for improvement.

This group of volunteers went on to be called RNIB Tenant Assessors. In April 2016, they met with the Director of Assets to present their findings and recommendations for improvement at all Haven Housing Schemes.

These recommendations are currently being incorporated into the Welsh Housing Quality Standard works at the schemes. Once the works are complete, the Tenant Assessors will revisit the schemes to carry out a final audit with the RNIB and look to awarding the Gold/Silver/Bronze accreditation for the Visibly Better standard.

One of our Tenant Assessors, John Phillips from Michaelstone Court, is a particular asset to the group as he himself is registered blind and has been a key player in identifying areas for improvement which will not only benefit him, but all other tenants living in Haven Housing.

Here is John talking about some of his experiences as a volunteer with the RNIB Tenant Assessors

 

We listen, learn and act on information

Service Issues, Complaints and Compliments

One of our key sources of information that we can listen, learn and act on, are the compliments, service users and complaints we receive from our customers.

Complaints

NPT Homes is committed to dealing effectively with any concerns or complaints about the organisation and the service received. This service is delivered by a Customer Liaison Officer who works within the Change Management team. We keep the complainant informed during the investigation and aim to clarify any issues. We always explain the reasons for our final decision. If possible, we will put right any mistakes we may have made and we will endeavour to provide any service a customer is entitled to which we have failed to deliver. If we have got something wrong, we will apologise and, where possible, we will try to put it right. We also aim to learn from our mistakes, try to understand root causes and use the information we gain to improve our services.

Further information on our Complaints Policy can be found on our website – click here. This Policy is due for review by Board in June 2017.

An audio of our Complaints Policy is also available on our website and is available in hard copy and Braille on request.

From work undertaken by the Change Management team, communication (or the lack of), often occurs as the root cause of the service issues raised. Complaints about communication come in all guises, these include not speaking to our customers to update them on issues, not writing clear notes for other colleagues to follow or not explaining things clearly to customers so that they fully understand how decisions are made.

 

Here is an example of a complaint we have received about communications and what we did as a result.

Complaints case study

Compliments

Here are some examples of the compliments we have received about communication.

Compliments case studies

Service Reviews

We carry out ‘lean system’ reviews of our services to identify what matters to tenants and re-shape our services as a result, for example a recent lean system review was undertaken of our arrears service. A number of changes were made as a result. The emphasis is now on helping tenants who get into arrears early and overall, taking a more pro-active approach. These changes have helped contribute to lower levels of evictions and lowest levels of rent arrears since transfer.

NPT Homes is also committed to working in true partnership with stakeholders using co-design and co-production methods. Recent co-design projects include the evaluation of Haven Housing and the review of the Tenancy Support Service.

Both approaches focus upon understanding the needs and views of our tenants and how we can improve access to services.

Further details of the examples referred to above can be found in the Sustaining Tenancies Storyboard

Tenant satisfaction survey results

We regularly ask tenants for their opinion on a range of services that we provide and use that information to make service improvements.

WHQS Satisfaction Scores. 2015/16: 97% very good or good; 3% poor, unnacceptable or not answered. 2016/17: 96% very good or good, 4% poor, unnacceptable or not answered.

An example of how we use the results of surveys to make service improvements is with the WHQS satisfaction survey results. Following major works to our properties such as kitchens and bathrooms, tenants are asked a range of questions to identify their satisfaction with the works. This information is analysed by our WHQS Team and is used in discussions to allocate future work to our contractors.

Neighbourhood Services - Garden Maintenance

We are now reviewing all our satisfaction surveys as part of the Customer Experience project to ensure that we plan out future surveys in a systematic way. This work has started and is scheduled for completion during 2017.

More survey results from the last 12 months are saved in the Board Member Intranet.

We are easy to contact and communicate in ways that are easy to understand

More ways than ever to get in touch

We offer a wide range of ways for our customers to communicate with us.

Telephone

One of the most popular methods is still telephone, with our general enquiries line operating between 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, receiving on average 32,000 calls a year. We have a separate repairs line which operates between 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, with an emergency service in operation outside of these hours. On average we receive 58,000 calls a year to this line

General Enquiries: 32,000 calls per year. Repairs: 58,000 calls per year.

Our Customer Experience corporate priority project has focused heavily on improving the telephone experience for our customers. During 2016, a group of staff developed telephone training for all staff and 99% of staff have now completed the training. Further work is now being undertaken to ensure that this learning is embedded across the organisation.

 

Face-to-Face

Customers can visit our satellite offices in Neath, Port Talbot and Pontardawe or our Head Office in Baglan; or interact with one of our 200 staff who provide services to our customers in their communities, face-to-face, every day.

Email, text and letter

We also make use of methods such as email, texting and letter to communicate with our customers. For example, we use texting to let housing applicants know when they can bid for properties and we also text when a tradesperson is on their way to a tenant’s home to undertake a repair.

Social Media

In recent years we have launched our own social media accounts to give tenants more accessible ways to communicate with us. Facebook is currently the most widely used channel that our customers use with followers growing on a month by month basis. Usage stats are available in the Board Member Intranet. It is an effective way for us to promote key messages and gives tenants the opportunity to interact with us instantaneously with questions or queries.

Website

Our website www.npthomes.co.uk was revamped in 2015 following consultation sessions with tenants and research into usage of the site at the time. This ensured we took customer feedback on board to provide users with meaningful, useful information.

The website will be developed further in the coming years with the introduction of a tenant portal to enhance customer experience.

 

Improving methods of Contact

Below is an example of how we have improved the ease of contact for our repairs service since our last self-assessment in 2013.

 

Repairs Contact Centre

In 2013, customers were waiting for lengthy periods of time to get through on the phones to report a repair, sometimes up to 60 minutes, with nearly 50% of all calls being abandoned by customers.

Here’s a quote from a tenant taken from the last storyboard:

I found it difficult to get in contact using the 0300 number. I had to wait approximately 20 minutes to get through... when I did I... I was told that I had to ring a different number... I found this very frustrating.

Since then a systems review has been undertaken and the wait times have been drastically reduced. On average, less than 5% of calls are now abandoned with most answered in under a minute. Here is a video that shows how the staff were feeling before and after the review and details of the work that was done to transform the service.

 

We are accountable to our customers

There are a number of ways that we are able to demonstrate accountability to our customers.

 

Board

Over recent years, housing association Board members’ roles and responsibilities have been substantially strengthened and they are required to ensure that associations are well-governed and managed, and meet the needs of their customers in ways that fulfil their charitable purposes.

Our Board consists of 4 tenants, 4 independent members and 4 council nominees. Tenants are elected onto the Board following a tenant election and have the opportunity to set the strategic direction of the organisation, make key decisions and approve policy and budgets.

This is the highest level of decision making for NPT Homes and tenant representation plays a key part in how we ensure accountability to our customers.

Academy

Our Academy is a group of tenants and associate members who review NPT Homes’ performance (self-evaluation) and produce storyboards that detail their findings. The storyboards are reported by the Academy to Board for discussion and approval, are then published on our website and are used to make improvements across the business.

Getting Involved

As a Community Housing Mutual we have a wide range of opportunities, in addition to Board and Academy membership, for tenants to have their say and shape the way we run our services.

Getting Involved leaflet cover

In Summer 2016 we developed the Getting Involved section of the website and produced a new publication to highlight the variety of ways that tenants can get involved.

 

General Members

At our Annual General Meetings (AGMs), all General Members (apart from associates) have the right to vote on key decisions and submit questions to our Senior Management Team. General questions which would apply to the majority of customers are answered at the meetings and anything specific to an individual is answered direct. Responses to general questions asked at these meetings are also published in the following Grapevine, our tenant magazine.

As at 31st March 2017, there were 321 members. Details of the membership and voting rights are set out below.

The Rules of the organisation state that most decisions at general meetings can be settled by a simple majority of voting shares. However, certain matters, such as Rule changes, are decided in accordance with the weightings of votes as shown above, with a simple majority of each category determining the casting of their weighted votes.

Category Members Voting Shares Weighting
Tenant 272 272 34%
Leaseholder 15 15 5%
Independent 4 4 27%
Council 1 1 34%
Associate 29 0 0%

The associate members cannot vote in general meetings but are welcome to attend and are eligible to take part in other membership committees and forums.

Our General Membership Policy sets out to future and current General Members how NPT Homes promotes and monitors general membership, to explain who can be a general member and how to apply or end a general membership. It ensures we comply with our rules and legislation. A co-design approach is currently being taken to review the Policy and the outcome of this work will be presented to Board for approval at its meeting in May 2017.

 

We make available clear and accountable information based on our performance every year & We are open and transparent in what we do and the information we publish

The Grapevine - On the Board Update

We regularly publish our tenant magazine, The Grapevine, which includes an ‘On the Board’ page which gives customers an understanding of the work of the Board. It outlines the key decisions that have been made and also highlights the training that Board undergo to help ensure they are effective in their roles.

Annual Report

Five Years On cover

 

Every year we produce a tenant friendly annual report which highlights the progress NPT Homes has made in the financial year prior. This includes performance information.

This publication is launched at the AGM and is promoted via our website and on social media to raise awareness of our progress with non-members and the wider community.

Regulatory Judgement

Each year Welsh Government carries out an assessment on how we’re performing and sets out whether we’re meeting the required standards. The key areas of focus by Welsh Government are governance, service delivery and financial viability.

The purpose of the assessment is to ensure we are a well governed organisation, that we have good levels of tenant involvement, that we have robust processes in place to assess our own performance, that we manage risks facing the business and are continually striving to improve the services we deliver to our customers.

The assessment also looks at our financial performance to ensure we are financially sound and are delivering value for money in all areas of the business. Our judgement for 2017 provides assurance to our tenants, leaseholders and other stakeholders that we are achieving the highest level of compliance in the areas outlined above.   

A copy of our most recent Regulatory Judgement can be found here

We have published our judgement on our performance on our website along with other information including our Annual Report and Financial Statements in the interest of openness and transparency.

During 2017 we will consider publishing the outcomes of our Board meetings on the website.

 

Action Plan