The End of Trust (and how organisations can rebuild it)

We’ve seen an alarming evaporation of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the recession in 2009. Trust in government, business, media and non-profits is below 50% in two-thirds of countries, including the U.S, U.K, Germany and Japan. There has been a startling decrease in trust.  Richard Edelman


The annual Edelman Trust Barometer is always fascinating reading but the 2015 edition is one that really should make us sit up and take note.

It appears we have entered an era of ‘trust deficit’ – where more people distrust institutions than believe in them. And we can’t blame those pesky bankers for this one – the causes are far more evenly spread that you might think.

It’s a truly global decline, spanning sectors and industries. The rise of connectivity and access to information, fuelled by social media,  surely play a part in this shift.

  • 60% of countries now distrust media.
  • Government is distrusted in 19 of the 27 markets surveyed.
  • Trust is strongest in non-profit organisations but even here it’s waning – alarmingly so in the case of the UK , down from 67% to 51%.

But don’t worry –  those crazy social disruptors and innovators will surely save the day.

Errr – except people don’t trust them either.

Indeed , public trust in innovation is no longer implicit.  As the report says “innovation on its own is not perceived as an inherent demonstration of forward progress, despite the near reverence for the term.”

51% of people say the pace of change is too great , with many ‘innovations’ appearing untested and unproven.

This is surely a wake up call to all of us working in Local Government, Health , Housing and Care. These are sectors that often spend an undue amount of time blaming other people for their problems. Problems , it seems , that lie somewhat closer to home.

Trustworthiness is said to consist of competence (ability), having the right motives (benevolence), and acting fairly and honestly (integrity). Any person or organisation who displays those attributes consistently will be trusted. But get any of them wrong, and you blow it. 

The impact of a trust deficit is tangible:

  • In public services a lack of trust means people not buying into services and values. If means a declining reputation, wasted resources and a sharp increase in avoidable contact and failure rates.
  • In business it hits profit , two thirds of people refuse to buy products and services from a company they do not trust, 58% will criticise them to a friend.
  • And those of us based in the UK will see the impact of the lack of trust in government on 7th May. People are increasingly disenfranchised from mainstream politics – especially, but not exclusively, the young.

So what do we need to do?

As the report says: The trust-building opportunity lies squarely in the area of integrity and engagement.

Obviously there are some global mega trends at work here that are difficult to shift. But what can our organisations practically do to start building up trust?

Here’s five things we could all start doing tomorrow:

Stop saying how great your organisation is

There’s a huge dissonance in the public sector where services are often described as great when they are merely mediocre.

This includes the issuing of flattering press releases , massaged customer satisfaction scores and meaningless benchmarking results. The only people who have a right to say we are great are our customers.

Everytime we say how wonderful we are a little bit of trust dies somewhere.

Start engaging rather than broadcasting

It’s time to do less talking and more listening. Cut it with the jargon and PR doublespeak.

If you want to understand why trust in politicians is flatlining you need look no further than the Twitter feed of prospective Prime Minister Ed Miliband. To say this account is robotic is a genuine insult to our android friends. The Canadian hitchhiking robot HitchBot demonstrates more insight, humour, warmth, and humanity. 

We need to start acting , and talking,  like people again.

Default to transparency

Publish everything. Even your biggest mistakes.

I frequently talk about the work of Buffer , to my mind a truly transparent organisation. Take a look at their transparency dashboard which features details of salaries, profit and loss, even their emails. They have built a business with strong social media presence and enshrined transparency as part of their values.

How honest are our websites? Maybe we should ask our customers.

Stop innovating for the sake of it

The report notes that trusted innovation means us adopting a new framework rooted in dialogue, sharing information and fostering collaboration.

We need the various Labs , Accelerators and Hubs to adopt stringent methodologies for testing innovations and proving their worth before launching them to the public.

Our Bromford Lab and Research Team have begun to show our organisation and customers that testing social innovations in a robust way is not bureaucracy – but necessary evaluation.

Rather than launching initiatives in a blaze of publicity we’d be better off making test results publicly available for review, which 80% of people say would boost trust.

Turn your people into brand advocates

People just don’t buy our marketing anymore. They don’t believe us. We need to radically transform Communications and Marketing teams. Rather than gatekeepers they need to be enablers. The more of our colleagues we have on social , the more honesty we share, the more trust we build.

I’m a big advocate of social CEOs – but the report highlights they are regarded as the least credible sources. A ‘person like yourself’ builds trust – we need to promote the voices of those engaged in frontline services, not the hierarchy.

To prevent further decline we need to consider whether every action we take is a trust builder or trust killer.

Every action, every report, every single tweet.

To rebuild trust we must show we are worthy of it.

The New Transparency

What does having an open social media policy say about a company?

For me , it says nothing about social media and everything about trust.

Trust in your people – you believe that they come to work to do good things , not wreck your reputation.

Trust in yourself – you are an open business and don’t have things to hide. You are ethical and you do good things.

I’ve been involved in a couple of discussions recently about the value of employer presence on social media. It emerged as number of businesses are considering scaling down their social media presence amid fears of risk and bad PR.

In those conversations we talked about a “new transparency” – something far more meaningful than whether you publish every item of expenditure over £500.

A transparency that says we are confident , even when facing criticism, in our people and our culture. We encourage each other to post and blog and talk about the work we are doing.

It’s a transparency that says , if you believe in our values then why not be our next customer or next recruitment?

More and more people are making career choices based upon the social credentials of an organisation. And more and more are seeing access to social media as a right not a benefit.

Far from being just another fad, your social media policy and the way you use it might well be your most valuable USP.

Listen to customers. But don’t feel you have to do what they say…..

“Do your customers agree with what you are proposing?” was one of the questions our Board asked me this week.

My response went something like this:

“I don’t know. We’ve listened to what they have told us. We’ve observed how they find things difficult to use. And then we’ve tried to create something they will like better”

I had just admitted that we’d come up with a proposition based upon what we thought customers would like rather than what they said they actually wanted.

Only a few years ago – saying that you ignored what customers said they wanted could have seen you tried as a Witch. A Heretic.

“He said what? Customers don’t always have the answers? Clearly we have before us a man of unsound mind.”

Fact is – listening to customers can lead to you delivering more of the same. Rather than creating something different.

The darkest days of the Audit Commission, and the dreaded Key Lines of Enquiry, nearly killed any innovation in the sector in which I work.

Hours were spent justifying how customers had played a part in every level of decision making.

Days on end were spent filling in a 50 page Gap Analysis, and poring over a 150 page booklet on supposed Best Practice.

Centuries from now our descendants will study the indecipherable jargon in these papers, imagining them to hold untold secrets of life in the early 21st Century.

In reality it will tell them nothing – except we were all a bit stupid really.

I remember one of my colleagues literally locking themselves away in an office for 8 hours – desperately writing a 40 page continuous improvement action plan. That’s the UK Housing equivalent of waterboarding .

Equally ridiculous was a conversation I once had with a housing “expert” :

Expert: Why have you chosen not to compare your performance to other housing providers?

Me: Well – very few of our tenants have experienced services from another housing association. So its better we compare our performance with other companies they might use – like Sky or Tesco.

Expert: And your customers told you they wanted this done?

Me: Well, not directly.

Expert: Then you don’t really act on what customers have said at all. And there is no clear link back to your strategic plan. I can’t see that this activity is planned or that a proper risk assessment has taken place.

Me: Oh, just [expletives deleted]…… (NB: this bit appeared as a thought rather than in the conversation itself)

Customers don’t always know what they want. They sometimes need to be shown a better alternative to what they currently have.

Technology and Social media gives us previously unimaginable opportunities to collaborate with customers in the gestation of these alternatives.

So let’s use the new tools we now have.

Let us be bold and use it to make changes for the people we let down by wasting time and money.

Let us move on from the people who told us we had to serve up more of the same. That we had to document, action plan and risk assess every idea we had.

But let us not forget.

It was a dark period in our history.

We must never let it happen again. Our customers deserve much better.

A Design For Life – The Customer Deal – New Blog

It’s not often you get the chance to go back to the start. To redesign your customer experience from the beginning of the relationship

About a year ago we started talking to customers about their part in our service offer.

We had worked with them to develop a new Bromford Offer – based on the experiences of thousands of customers. It had nothing to do with regulation but everything to do with making sense of what customers had told us mattered to them.

As we developed the offer a lot of time was spent discussing what WE – as a business – wanted from our customers. What constituted the ideal customer relationship? And how could we shape it? What would need to change?

The Customer Deal, as we call it, begins today in a series of demonstration projects before a full launch to all new customers in April next year. I’m going to be blogging what works and what doesn’t. What it looks and feels like to a customer. And whether it makes a difference to us as a business.

This week though I’m going to be looking at the four elements of the Deal that we think will make it unique for our customers:

1 – A Fair Deal

Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about how we worked with customers to decide where our service starts and where it stops. And I’ll look at the elements of service that require complete co-operation from customers for us to be successful.

2- An Aspirational Deal

On Wednesday I’ll post about how we want every new customer relationship to be one of opportunity. How moving into, or buying, one of our homes should give the customer the very best social opportunity.

3 – A Transparent Deal

On Thursday we’ll take a look at how we will regularly review our offer with each and every customer. Including how the relationship is working , what it costs and where its headed.

4 – A Digital Deal

To close the week I want to outline how we are going to be really serious about tackling digital exclusion. Every new customer will sign up to a “digital deal” – with online communication being the default position.

As part of the blog going forward we’ll be asking other people to contribute – those providing the service and the customers receiving it. So we can shape it together and make it last for life.

See you tomorrow

Building Stronger Communities – Transcript of our Customer Debate on UK Riots

Riot Debate - Social Media used to bring customers together


Building Stronger Communities Debate

The following is an open transcript of the Twitter/Facebook and Customer Influence Meeting Debate regarding Bromford’s response to the civil unrest and riots that broke out in parts of the UK in Summer 2011.

The summary conclusions reached by our customers were:

1 – Customers feel that Bromford’s approach of changing behaviours rather than ending tenancies is the right course of action. They do not believe in just shifting the problem on unless there is no way back.

2 – The creation of mentoring opportunities for young people who do not feel part of society and have no leadership at home should be a priority.

3 – The new Bromford Customer Deal (See my Blog all next week)  is crucial in highlighting problems at an early stage.

Hope you enjoy reading the comments!

Responses from customers on Twitter and Facebook:

Newest messages first – start at bottom

Customer@BromfordLiving yes can i remind you of what mining communities were like – closely knit

Customer – I am afraid it is going to happen again because socirty is have and have nots

Customer@CIGatBromford yes agreed we do and we must but other agencies must work along side us

Customer@BromfordLiving yes we are having this problem and we are finding the police are all talk no action

Customer – totally agree but agencies are suffering cut backs vicious circle syndrome

Customer – were would the volunteering come from skills from parents

Customer –  i would agree and also politicians should keep out as well

Customer – and this is at the heart unemployment our young people losing hope

Customer – it is very difficult because the police do not take this seriously

Customer – no it was not i think some of it was down to gangs and organised crime

Customer – society seems to have given up on our young people but they are our investment for the future

Customer – we cannot do this on our own at the moment society is fragmented and its getting worse

Customer @BromfordLiving with difficulty rioters seem to have come from varios backgrounds and not from some sort of a sub culture

Customer – think the situation is very deep rooted

Customer – and that is really good but is jail going to work in every case

Customer #riotreport But remember: the more you give, the less people value it! We can provide the opportunities but not solve it all

Customer #riotreport people have nothing to aim for, opportunities need to be created to give something to work towards.

Customer#riotreport discipline and pride. We need to instill these in young people!

Customer#riotreport Religion used to play a big part in society and where many people got their morals from.

Customer – #riotreport there are a lack of male role models in society and families. We need to give people aspirations

Internal Colleague – RT @annagillespie74 Some stats to dispel the myths Riots: Gangs Did Not Play A ‘Pivotal Role’ In Riots #riotreport

Internal Colleague – Some stats to dispel the myths Riots: Gangs Did Not Play A ‘Pivotal Role’ In Summer Riots | Home | Sky News #riotreport

Internal Colleague – “Alleged rioters come from deprived areas”: How do we break the cycle? #riotreport

Internal Colleague – Just back from customer meeting looking at #riotreport. Lively challenging and some great ideas. Not bad for a Monday night.

Internal Colleague – “@Gangology: So reports confirm summer riots were not gang driven #statingtheobvious#riotreport not quite as bad as reported in the end

Internal Colleague#riotreport you can continue to post thoughts using this hashtag,we will share it when we provide our collective thoughts to the #riotreport

Internal Colleague#riotreport please see the B’ham project #nopostcodes tweets and the fantastic film they have made! some big stars took part!

External Partner@BromfordLiving #riotreport stimulate thinking around stronger community – celebrate local life & produce + key role models = mood shifters

Internal Colleague#riotreport thanks to everyone for your really strong & considered responses tonight!

Internal Colleague#riotreport Are we right to say ‘No deal, no keys?’

Customer – “@BromfordLiving: #riotreport -Top three for me #partnerships #education & connecting communities together to make them stronger!” agree!

External Partner @BromfordLiving #riotreport 1 aspiration is sown in the home, family & workplace 2 rewards those w best housing stock 3 match haves w needs

Internal Colleague #riotreport -Top three for me #partnerships #education & connecting communities together to make them stronger!

Internal Colleague#riotreport 2nd takeaway – we would rather Bromford change behaviour not shift problem on

External Partner#riotreport @weavermiles but it worked! We can connect communities in so many ways – community is not just a place, but a common interest

External Partner@BromfordLiving #riotreport responsibility to ensure the vulnerable are housed but reward could be given to better tenants for best stock

Internal Colleague#riotreport do we really think evicting the customers who were part of the riots make the situation better?

Internal Colleague#riotreport @petemarl Point One – social investment is good for communities #partnerships

Internal Colleague@BromfordLiving #riotreport I sent out the tweet 4 #riotcleanupBham it was a common purpose not existing relationships. Randoms came 2gether

Customer #riotreport top 3 takeaways 1- encourage volunteering and mentoring for all people

Customer@Jamoo1987 @BromfordLiving @BromfordHomes @kicfm Rioters should not be kicked out their homes. Being homeless isn’t the answer #riotreport

External Partner@BromfordLiving #riotreport making people homeless will only make matters worse. Restorative justice Yes & inv the community #partnerships

External Partner@BromfordLiving #riotreport can HAs take a leadership role implementing the govt localisation agenda? E.g space 4 neighbourhood forum

Internal Colleague#riotreport @PaulBromford lets go for it, the top three things we can take from this tweet off! What are our recommendations?

Customer#riotreport we saw in the aftermath of the riots of local people who never want this to happen again, there is a desire for change!

External Partner @BromfordLiving #riotreport what made a strong community in say the 60s & now. What changed?

Customer#riotreport @RuthGBromford interesting tweet! How do we give communities greater say over local decisions?

Customer#riotreport get involved with children at an early age like cubs and scouts

External Partner @BromfordLiving #riotreport how can u match tenants wants (e.g. Fresh veg & gardening skills) & have (spare veg patch) – bring comm 2gether

Customer@PaulBromford  #riotreport no, we want our communities to thrive, we have responsibility too

Customer#riotreport FB comment ‘I think if anything those found taking part shud be made instantly homeless – or unemployed.. – discuss?!

Customer#riotreport work clubs, providing opportunties within our organisation for our tenants. Working with other organisations, training providers

Customer – RT @mrbromford: @PaulBromford if we have the apprentiships yes but is this letting the govt of the hook #riotreport

External Partner –  #riotreport to an extent yes. Keep communities together but must also be a mix. E.g. If downsizing want to still stay local

Internal Colleague#riotreport social media lead those clean ups – not police, schools, housing providers? Communities can affect change for themselves!

Customer #riotreport social investment?! We do have responsibility to support our communities with opportunities for jobs, learning and skills

Customer#riotreport @CIGatBromford how do we encourage some of the positive actions by communities as they cleaned up after the riots

External Partner@BromfordLiving #riotreport the home life is personal. It is here where ppl feel so comfortable. Outside it, it is a must have culture

Customer#riotreport Tough action needs to be taken!

Internal Colleague#riotreport could housing providers build bridges? broker relationships, put things in place like apprenticeships which intervene & redirect

Customer#riotreport tough love is required if rioting within one of our communities and they live there, even if a relative, they should be punished

External Partner@CIGatBromford #riotreport what does it mean ‘sense of community & place’ – how can a HA contribute to this Q?

External Partner#riotreport a good home is essential. Once you have that ppl wish to self improve & get competitive (good) to move up ladder

Customer #riotreport what of the positive things that have happened in communities since the summer. clean ups, strong communities?

Customer#riotreport “why can’t Bromford place apprenticeships from within community organsisations who are struggling”

Customer#riotreport FB social housing estate with problems with gangs etc.The provider should put pressure on the police to deal with the problem.

External Partner #riotreport closer better joined up working HA’s, Police, Courts, Education, Support Agencies & Community (inc ten panels) big challenge 4us

External Partner@CIGatBromford #riotreport sow the seeds of aspiration. Help individuals on thier journey to get a house to raise a family. Make it reality

External Partner@BromfordLiving #riotreport aspiration & purpose in a community is imp. 1 thing most aspire to have is a decent home to raise a family

Customer #riotreport seems like government would make it more difficult to evict, takes months through legal procedures

Internal Colleague#riotreport young people have so many key changes in their lives – mashed up with media influence can create volatile responses

Internal Colleague#riotreport agency approach is a great one, instilling a stronger community needs a strong community voice! How can we help customers?

External Partner@CIGatBromford #riotreport family, home life & workplace are key influences. A sense of place & belonging = ownership (don’t trash ur yard)

Customer #riotreport comment from young customer “young people were really angry. get into gangs if not confident. Need to engage them”

Customer#riotreport should we give our communities responsibility to let our homes? Our customers decide who lives in their street?

Customer #riotreport @mrbromford says @BromfordLiving i would agree and also politicians should keep out as well

Customer#riotreport multi agency working with police, social services, schools etc is required for finding route cause and turn communities around

External Partner#riotreport no, individuals riot not governments. Although, the govt set the scence in both social & economic changes

External Partner –  “people felt disconnected – we have become disconnected” #riotreport

Customer#riotreport #ukhousingproviders can’t fix problems alone – other agencies need to be involved

Customer#riotreport it’s no good to eject people from their homes to make a problem in another community. Work to find out the cause

External Colleague@BromfordLiving #riotreport the transition between primary & secondary is daunting. Opportunity to sow the seeds of aspiration with a mentor?

Customer #riotreport – ‘I am not sure that Housing Associations could begin to touch the issues of the society we live in!

Customer#riotreport discussion at our meeting “should a housing association tenant be compelled to take up skills and volunteering”

Internal Colleague#riotreport Riots are not new….history repeating itself, what have we learnt?

External Partner@BromfordLiving @CIGatBromford what were the ‘mood changes’ and how can we understand them by nurturing future role models #riotreport

Customer#riotreport people have lost faith in making peaceful protests. We all have rights but people think for themselves, not for others anymore

Customer#riotreport do we have a role with schools &citizenship programmes, how do we ensure we have the scale & reach in our engaging in comm’s

Customer#riotreport cust on FB: “punish the rioters, but ask why it happened, we have 990000 youth unemployed, then you’ll help to prevent riots.”

Customer#riotreport – would it help if local communities had a lettings board & decided who should live on their street?

Customer – #riotreport it isn’t beyond our reach to make a difference

Customer – Young people have to be the priority for employment and any community inclusion #riotreport

Customer#riotreport could we run parenting courses?

Customer#riotreport customer email ‘the courts should deal with rioters, housing providers could have role in life skills, what do you think?

Internal Colleague#riotreport lots of ideas as to why it happened but what is our role as a social housing provider?

Customer#riotreport Do the government have a lot to answer for? Were they central to the riots?

Customer#riotreport – customer in B’ham says, too many kids are removed from schools before they are officially excluded-its all about league tables

Customer#riotreport it’s societies problem! Riots have always happened but modern technology fuelled it

Customer #riotreport customer comment “creating work for young people that pays would be a start”

Internal Colleague@CIGatBromford #riotreport how do we use our influence to change behaviours or use our relationship to discourage riots

Customer#riotreport if 10,000 people were charged, are we going to evict all those people?

Customer#riotreport – customer on FB: “Where there’s an estate with problems the hsing provider should put pressure on police to deal with problems”

Customer#riotreport greed and boredom seems to have been the motive for most participants

Customer#riotreport “housing associations need to prioritise their investment – riots don’t happen everywhere”

Internal Colleague#riotreport is it fair that only those in social housing could lose their homes! Or should it be a risk we expose?

Customer – #riotreport Was it all down to our ‘younger generation?’ Not sure!

Customer#riotreport we shouldn’t reward bad behaviour

Customer#riotreport shouldn’t we find out why tenants in our communities wanted to take part?

Customer – customer from B’ham says ‘ yes they should be evicted’ But we need to sing from the same hymn sheet to make a difference #riotreport

Customer#riotreport if a tenant is a persistent anti social behaviour offender, bromford should say we don’t want them!

Customer#riotreport “need to invest in young people , only way to avoid it happening again”

Customer – Live consultation on riots and social inclusion. “riots have always happened – nothing new” #riotreport

Internal Colleague#riotreport should social housing providers take legal action against tenants that have taken part?

Customer#riotreport with difficulty rioters seem to have come from various backgrounds and not from some sort of a sub culture

Customer@BromfordLiving my first thought is the riots were part of a disengagement of society #riotreport

Customer – Refuse housing?? Explain how we want our customers to live in our homes and communities #riotreport

Internal Colleague – How do we encourage stronger communities, where members work with the right partners to challenge behaviour #riotreport

Customer#riotreport – customer says on FB: “We will only cure this by education, re-investing in deprived areas, we have to give the youth hope”

Internal Colleague – We must help people choose the path that they know is right. Act as a sign post & support…be a force for change #riotreport #NoPostcodes

Customer – Create communities where bad behaviour is not tolerated because the neighbours will not allow it! #riotreport

Customer#riotreport customer says on FB – some tenants just abuse the housing they have, but the large volume are good tenants!

Customer – Make people responsible – instil behaviours – get up & get out! Dont wait for something to drop on the mat! #riotreport

Internal Colleague#riotreport Wolverhampton rioter convicted – who was a ‘Princes Trust’ Award winner – how do we make a difference?

Customer –  #riotreport “customers need to get clear set of expectations at start”

Internal Colleague – what is your view of the role of a housing provider in a community & how that can influence customers involvement with riots #riotreport

Internal Colleague – Join us tonight on twitter #riotreport to have your say on how we can build stronger communities to prevent this…

Internal Colleague – Check this video out — NO POSTCODESfinHQ via @youtube and join us tonight #riotreport to share your view 4.30pm

Internal Colleague – How can we stop the riots happening again? Live tweet off Monday 24th Oct at 4.30pm #riotreport join us and give your views @BromfordLiving


Discussion Group – Action against the Rioters

  • We need to understand why the person took part in the rioting 
  • Assess if the person has caused any anti-social behaviour previously
  • Work in partnership with other agencies – bring everyone to the table
  • Work with parents if they cannot control their children, send them to parenting classes 
  • Looking into education and how that can help 
  • Customers need to have respect and understand the impact
  • Possible counselling for the family – and interventions
  • Allow the criminal justice system to take action first – housing associations should follow
  • If there has been incidents of anti social behaviour in the past then take legal action against the family 
  • Use the customer deal as a tool to tackle asb 
  • 3 strikes then out by using the customer deal 
  • Where customer have been convicted in the past and have taken part in the rioting then legal action needs to be taken 
  • Take a stand to show that Bromford will not tolerate this behaviour 
  • Firm action needed to show that we are not a soft touch 

Discussion Group – Investing in Society

  • Need to signpost opportunity –  Employment & Skills;; Workclubs; Skills Assessment; Private Sector Jobs; Volunteers & Placements.
  • People need to belong to something; invest time and effort in people; how do we get hold of people with no or low aspirations
  • Lack of discipline and pride -Provide focus and direction
  • Nothing to aim for! Create something!
  • Are we pandering – more we do, more they want?
  • Down to the parents – negative parenting skills
  • Provide a path – Identify families we can help – do what it takes…Be sure we are targeting the right people
  • Lack of male role models – needs to be taken into account via volunteering
  • More Diversionary action
  • Get tough in expectations- Tell them clear expectations
  • Set the standards – No deal – no keys
  • Living in our property is an opportunity for people!
  • There are jobs – we just need to link them to people
  • Need clear Community expectations – re-inforced at all times

Are we ready for the rise of the untethered customer? Blog update #ukhousing

“What is a smartphone anyway?” I was asked by a colleague this week. I broke into a cold sweat. Especially as it was during a meeting about digital inclusion.

If this is the kind of question you hear asked often, you need to start worrying. Now.

I love working in housing. Genuinely. But whilst we debate whether the Right to Buy is a a good thing, what level of Affordable Rent is affordable  – we miss out on some things that maybe , just maybe , we should be talking about as well.

Such as. We are in the midst of a revolution in the way customers interact and engage with us – the likes of which we have never seen before in the history of the human race.

Is that enough hyperbole for you?

In his book “The Third Screen – Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile” , Chuck Martin introduces the concept of a customer who is untethered – literally let loose – from the restrictions previously placed on them by service providers.

The development of smartphone technology and digital mobility will usher in an era where the customer – not the company – is in control. Access on the go. When the customer wants it. Error Free. No Delay. 24/7

And its already happening.

Are we ready for a distracted customer who values their mobile more than they value television or food? Don’t be dismissive of that by the way – you have probably already glanced at a mobile device in the past hour. Or you are reading from one right now.

Some questions we need to ask ourselves.

  • There are more mobile phones in the UK than people. But how much time do we spend talking about mobile solutions compared with people problems?
  • Actual quote for you. “The problem with old people – those over 21 – is they still use email”. Are we prepared for doing business with a generation conditioned to 24hour SMS and Social Media communication?
  • How does a landlord integrate themselves in a customers social network stream? Do we want to?
  • What does a Skype debt management intervention look like?  Or ASB interview ? Live at midnight on a Saturday – as  it occurs.
  • How can Social Learning Communities get a tenant ready to cope with their first home, reduce repairs expenditure or aid greater access to employment and volunteering?
  • In a world post Google Wallet – how can Smart phones fulfill other everyday functions? Door-keys? Top up Utility Meters?
  • What about  Communities led by (tenant) digital champions? The housing version of  the TripAdvisor “destination experts”?
The advent of Smartphone technology and the untethered mobile customer offers us unprecedented opportunities to engage with customers in a way we never have before.

Ignore them and they will ignore us.

Top 5 things to look for in Customer Feedback – Blog Update #custserve #cex

Auditors arrived today to look at our Customer Experience Measurement Programme.

I’m not sure what they are up to. I probably should have paid more attention. I generally tend to approach new people I meet from a position of trust. Auditors , on the other hand , occupy a place in my mind with small children , teetotalers, and serial killers. I need to be convinced.

The problem I have when auditors or process people start looking at customer feedback is they usually miss the point completely.

They look at things like sampling , statistical validity, cost, data protection and benchmarking.  They often miss what it was designed to actually DO.

Which could and should be different at every organisation – if you have a unique service vision. And if you don’t have one of those then I would forget about collecting feedback altogether until you have.

Where I would start would be completely different. If I ever became an auditor – here’s the Top Five things I would look for:

1 – Does the organisation understand why it’s bothering to ask customers what they think? 

This might sound obvious but many places just run programmes because they have to (regulation) , or  they want to have high satisfaction scores to shout about (benchmarking and PR). Being able to show that there is a genuine desire in the business to look at itself through its customer eyes rather than pat itself on the back is critical for me.

2 – Do you ask the questions your customer wants you to ask, or the questions YOU want to ask?

All the questions we ask are designed by customers – based upon what THEY said was important. Its turns customers off when you keep asking them things that matter only to you. It’s like being stuck in a corner at a party with someone who only wants to talk about themselves.

3- Do you seek and encourage emotional feedback?

You need questioning techniques and conversations that get to the heart of how the customer is feeling.  Without this you’ll never understand what the customer truly values. And without an understanding of value you will never be able to design your future service offer. Don’t run the risk of designing out what they liked about you in the first place.

4 – Do you have an understanding of your customers journey?

Again common sense. But I’ve met organisations who measure at points that matter to them (usually pre or post-sale), rather than to the customer. We conduct regular anniversary interviews right through the relationship, and at the critical service touchpoints that matter to customers.

5- Does anyone get fired if your customer feedback performance is consistently bad?

I’m not joking. Who is responsible for each service area and acting on the results of the feedback? And what happens if they don’t?  Make sure every question you ask has a responsible owner and it’s understood by senior management who that is . And what they are doing to answer it.

I’m not saying this is the definitive list but it’s the ones I would look at first if  I were an auditor. God forbid.

Customer Influence Blog Update – An #openbusiness

For me – an open business is one which conducts itself transparently and isn’t afraid to share what its senior leaders are thinking with its customers and its colleagues.

The best idea’s and answers rarely come from executives but usually from listening to those closest to the product and closest to customers.

Here is a copy of the outcomes of a meeting we had last week in which some of our customer stakeholders discuss our latest performance with senior management. They also discuss our new customer deal and a couple of other idea’s we are looking at.  

You can have a look at the twitter transcript by reading my previous blog post.

 The minutes of the meeting are here……       CIG Minutes 7th Sept 2011

Customer Annual Reports – A Million Pound Waste of Time – Blog Update #ukhousing

Annual Reports cost Housing Providers millions but are a joke to most customers

A customer mailed me last week about our latest reports. Here’s a snippet…

” I think these reports are largely a waste of time. The first priority of the tenant is their own home. As I have said before, if there is something wrong you will hear about it soon enough. Beyond that I doubt whether many tenants have any deep interest or sense of identification with the institution which is providing their housing. ”

So last Wednesday we tried an experiment. Conduct a consultation on Twitter and Facebook, and at our Customer Influence Group meeting,  about whether Customer Annual Reports-  in 2011 – are a vital part of business transparency or outdated and outmoded.

Forget the regulation for a minute. When was the last time YOU looked at any annual report from a service provider? Your bank? Local council? Amazon? Marks and Spencer? The UK Government?

Our stats from this year show only 1.6% of residents showed any interest in a full version annual report. Online or in print.

Lets play with some figures.

Suppose the average Housing Association spent £30,000 (very conservative guesstimate) on performance reports and magazines to residents. Then take the fact that 1,200 HA’s are on the books of the National Housing Federation. That’s 1,200 x 30k = £36,000,000.

Thirty Six Million Pounds A Year. On Annual Reports and Magazines.

Thats the sort of thing that should make the Audit Commission and other consultants who told us this stuff really mattered to residents hang their heads in shame.

Social Media on the other hand allows not just a monologue but a multilogue.

So in our experiement the other night we fused a physical meeting, twitter, facebook , email and postal comments – and used all of it to help us make a decision. I’ll post the results later in the week

Here’s some more views of customers – our transcript from the other night……twitter transcript

Can you ever get 90% of people to recommend how you deal with ASB? Neighbourhood Priorities August 2011



How are we performing right now?

At present, 89.2% customers would recommend their neighbourhood as a place to live.

The safety/appearance of a neighbourhood has dropped from to 8.6 out of 10 to 7.6. Vicky Green advised that this is due to a change in the scoring system we use, going from an 11 point scale to a 10. The comments do not appear to be any more negative.

It was questioned whether the Anti Social Behaviour advocacy target of 90% to recommend us by 2016 was too high. Overall the Group felt that as it is a negative and emotive situation/experience for any one to be in it is more difficult to achieve high recommendation. It is a high target but one that we should aspire to.

 Progress against projects and plans:

Tenant Cashback Pilot

 Darrin gave the Group an update on the pilot and confirmed that Bromford is definitely taking part and that it will be launching in October. It will be aimed at around 200 customers in 3-4 areas offering a cash back of £300 for those customers that do their own repairs (there will be guidelines on what can and can’t be done) for a year and an extra £200 for those that do not use the Housing Management service, dealing with low level issues themselves. Darrin advised that the initial plans were to give the money upfront to make sure that customers have the funds to do the repairs. The Group had concerns about offering money upfront and felt that quarterly payments would be better.

Neighbourhood Pilot

 The Pilot is now nearing an end and the final survey has gone out to customers to compare how customers are feeling now to how they were before the pilot. The closing date is 8th August but already more feedback has been received than before. The Group really like this pilot as do Housing Managers who feel that it has improved communication with their customers.

Housing Manager Inspection

 Darrin shared the CIA Housing Management Inspection action plan. The Group really liked the format and felt that good progress was being made. The Group will monitor this action plan from now on.

Affordable Rent and Bromford Deal

Darrin provided an update on the customer Deal and advised that the Board felt it was too punitive on its own so it will now be combined with our Offer making the ‘Bromford Deal’. This is going to be launched in October with a view that all customers will be signed up by April 2012. It is acknowledged that the Deal will only be enforceable for new customers but it is hoped that it will give existing customers more responsibility.

Once this and the Affordable Rents are in full flow, this Group will monitor how many fixed term rents are not renewed because customers have not met the Bromford Deal.

Do Bromford “Do What We Say We Will”? Customer Influence Meeting Notes



This Groups purpose is to make sure we are A) Sticking to our Customer Service Offer and B) ensuring we are transparent and open when we need to improve it

How are we performing right now?

At present, 86.8% customers would recommend us for “doing what we say we will” which has decreased slightly. As customers could have dealt with any part of the organisation when they contact us, the service offered by all colleagues has a direct impact on performance. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is now allowing us to monitor which colleagues are not ‘doing what they say they will’. This will be addressed with managers, and further training will be provided. Capability of colleagues will be managed.

70.5% of customers would recommend us following their complaints experience, which has also decreased since last quarter. It has been acknowledged that once a complaint reaches formal stages, the experience can slow down for customers. Complaints reaching this level of escalation are often complex and detailed investigations are required. We are reviewing complaints that have been resolved during final stages and we will present findings and recommendations at the next customer offer group.

7.8 customers out 10 feel it is easy to tell us what they think – which is slightly less than last quarter.

 Project Updates

Web Project

Sue Craddock gave the Group a ‘walkthrough’ of the new Bromford Homes Website, which was launched 4 weeks ago and discussed/shared the functionalities of it. The Group felt that it was sympathetic in terms of colour and layout and liked that it will enable customers to access live information and updates.

There are discussions around Bromford having a smart phone ‘App’ developed – Jamie Powis commented that an App might not be necessary if the new website had a good mobile site.

The transactional interactions – where customers can log on through our website and access their accounts in a self-serve secure login account to pay their rent; report and track repairs; access local services/financial support or getting involved; moving to a new property – is currently being developed.

Customers will be able to access contact colleagues in an instant web chat to discuss issues.  Kim Avery presented the ideas and advised that she would like the Group to take them away and provide comment on what has been missed and what is not needed. Initial thoughts from the Group were that they positively embraced the vision and suggested that to push messages we could create a secure inbox to send messages around arrears or personal information. It was also discussed that where we signpost/recommend services such as home insurance, ‘upmystreet’ etc. – we could earn a small income from those companies.

Social Media

Vicky Green provided an update on the use of social media and advised that she has developed a protocol for colleague use, to ensure consistency. Kicfm – the community radio station that Jamie works at – will be coming into Bromford to do workshops with those colleagues that have access to Facebook or Twitter, to make sure that they all look the same.

Kim advised that as this will be another route for customers to contact us and we are gearing ourselves up to handle this within our CS Teams longer term.

Customer Contact and Complaints Action Plan

Kim updated the Group on both the Customer Contact and Complaints Action Plans.

The Group were pleased with the progress being made and felt that ideas and discussion that have taken place at previous meetings have made it onto the Action Plans.

The Group felt that all forms of communications – telephone, web and written correspondence – were being addressed and that some responsibilities were being put back to customers.

Kim confirmed that the Disclaimer about availability of services during extreme circumstances has been written and will be added to all customer communications.

The Group questioned whether people are still complaining about the same issues as they were 8 years ago, despite all the improvements made. The issues for complaints are similar but different colleagues and partners are involved. The trends do show an increase in Anti social behaviour and planned maintenance which hasn’t been highlighted in previous quarters. The improvement plan shows how we are using this information to improve.

Customer Annual Review

Vicky advised that the Customer Annual Review – Phase 1 – the appetiser – has gone to print! This will be on customers’ doormats within the next couple of weeks. This will be accompanied by a social media campaign

Colleague and Customer Intelligence from Contact

Dawn Curtis gave a presentation on the improvements made within Operational Teams – including colleagues going out on site with repairs team or new build homes so they can view first hand common issues that customers report. Dawn shared insight gleamed from our systems on customer contact, what colleagues have identified are blockages to service delivery and shared some of the areas we are working on in terms of people, processes and communication.

 Customer Service Centre

Kim gave a brief update on call volumes and performance for the last year, highlighting trends in demand and performance.  We now have customer call backs where customers can leave a message and keep their place in the queue. We have increased the number of incoming lines and there are more efficient systems in place. The contact centre is staffed appropriately during busy times of the day and performance against our measures of  answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds and achieving no more than 5% of callers ringing off because they didn’t want to wait are being consistently achieved. However, it is clear that to continue to achieve the performance we achieve during spring and summer is not possible when demand is much higher in the winter. We can either increase the resource at a cost or accept that service levels might fall.

Living in Your Home – priorities July/August 2011



How are we performing right now?

  • 8.1 customers out 10 feel their home works for them – which is slightly less than last quarter.
  • Gas Serving & Repairs scores have improved quite significantly with real positive comments from customers.
  • Satisfaction with New Homes has dipped from 100%. Due to economic climate we are not building as many new houses and therefore asking fewer people. With smaller numbers, any negative comments have a bigger impact. Catherine Wisdom has agreed to be a Development Champion and attend meetings alongside colleagues from other areas of the business with the Development team to discuss experiences, issues and improvement that they have come across regarding new builds.

Progress against projects and plans

Tenant Cashback Pilot

  • Alex Dixon advised that Bromford have agreed to take part in the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) Tenant Cashback Pilot and that it will be launching in October. It will be aimed at around 200 customers in 3-4 urban areas offering a cash back of £300 for those customers that do their own repairs (there will be guidelines on what can and can’t be done) for a year and an extra £200 for those that do not use the Housing Management service, dealing with low level issues themselves. For repairs – a customer would have an Annual Property Service (APS); then for 12 months do any repairs themselves (we will do what we are still responsible for i.e. gas; electrical; work from height etc.). After the 12 months, we would complete another APS and if the pilot has worked, there should be zero repairs.
  • We will be referring customers to an online suite of ‘how to’ videos, showing customers how to do minor repairs.

New Bromford Deal

  • The draft Bromford Deal was shared with the Group and will be launched early next year. This has been developed with customers with the intention of getting better understanding of how the service relationship between tenant and landlord should work. To enable us to support some of the Deal – the repairs team will film a walk through of the property with the new customer at the start of the tenancy. This will depict the standard of the property at the start.
  • It was noted that there is not a section for what customers are expected to do on the VfM part of the deal. This could include customers doing their own repairs, enabling the Group to offer better VfM.

Re-tender of the Repairs contract

  • Alex is currently working closely with the group to decide what and how we procure when the current contract comes to an end.
    • What we procure? We are looking to procure an APS led service contract including empty homes and some responsive repairs.
    • How we procure? There are three options; a large organisation to undertake it all; break the stock up into 3 or 4 smaller areas with smaller contractors for each area; or keep it within our in-house team.

  Improving Annual Property Service (APS) Access

  • The Bromford Deal and Tenancy Contract stipulates that a requirement of being a Bromford customer is they must allow us access once a year. We must achieve this and will need Housing Managers and Support colleagues to ask those customers that still refuse why. The Group felt the language in the Deal needs to be sterner – stating ‘when we come to do an APS’ rather than asking ‘can we come’.
  • The Group questioned whether APS could be done the same day as a Gas Service which Alex advised they are looking into. This would include electrical inspections and other annual checks, minimising the impact on customers and having to stay in for one day rather than 5.
  • It was felt that once the video of an APS goes onto our website, it should encourage customers to take part as at present there may be confusion about what it is. Helen Lloyd is working with the Repairs team to set this recording up.

  Any other business

  • Mike Stevenson questioned whether we have gathered any corporate nectar points following our deal with Dulux and customer paint vouchers. As Mike agreed to maintain communication with Di Middleton, he will check to see how much has been accumulated and what we can spend the points on. The Group agreed it would be good to spend it supporting social enterprise.


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