The 2011 Top 10 Social Media Moments @bromfordgroup – My Pick

2011 has a been a pivotal year for the customers and colleagues of Bromford Group. They have embraced social media and used it in new ways to communicate about their work , lives , interests and idea’s.

Here’s my personal Top Ten:

1 – Losing the Fear Factor. Deciding to allow all colleagues unlimited access to Twitter and Facebook was a watershed moment in creating social media freedom in the workplace

2 – Engaging in New Ways. Our Customer Influence Group took transparency to new levels by opening up meetings to social media – blending the physical world with online debates in real time

3 – Leading from the Top. Having social media as a valued form of communication is a leadership behaviour. So getting our CEO to encourage colleagues to get online was a key moment. Join him on Twitter @mickkent2

4 – Getting Down With The Kids. Cirencester based young peoples initiative – The Ozone – developed their own website and Facebook page – and have done such a great job attracting people to activities, advice , education and employment opportunities

5 – Getting better at Communications. Using Yammer as our internal social network has allowed people who have never tried social media to dip a toe into warm and friendly waters. But it has also developed an easy way for colleagues to get to know each other.  And keep in touch with what Leaders are working on

6 – Giving people an opportunity. Burntwood Job Club has used social media to attract 100 members – getting 14 people back into work, 9 people onto volunteer placements and 18 people into training

7 – Social Media Training. Not by using expensive and out of touch consultants , but by using local youth radio station Kic FM to provide our managers and executive with awareness sessions , practical advice and help on setting up social media accounts

8 – Standing Up To Gangs. NO POSTCODES used YouTube to get their anti gangs , guns and knives message to the world. Watch it again. And again.

9 – Sharing experiences. Not every colleague can get an invite to No.10 Downing St. But they can get to be a part of the experience by having it recorded on flip camera’s and shared immediately via social media

10 – Making New Friends. By losing the fear factor we’ve made some great new friends and expanded our network – not just in the Housing sector – but in Web Development, Communications, Social Innovation, Enterprise , Health , not just in the UK but worldwide. From all of us at Bromford – Have a wonderful Christmas and an amazing 2012

Relationships that work – Customer Deal Blog

One of our main aims is to have customers who would recommend us to their friends. We put this in place over 7 years ago – as a big unifying key performance indicator aimed at getting the whole organisation behind delivering great customer experiences.

But this can’t be delivered on our own. Relationships are a two way thing.

The landlord / tenant relationship in UK social housing is a curious one. It has no break clause and is subject to no review or even dialogue to see how either party feels.

It has no equivalent in the consumer world, where the concept of walk away points mean service relationships can have an inherent dynamism about them. You satisfy the customer or you are at risk.

What we aim to do with the Customer Deal is to introduce that dynamic quality into the relationship.

So a customer won’t just be handed the keys.

We will get to know them before they even move in.
We will have a welcome visit where we see how they are settling down and what they think of the service so far.
We will arrange relationship reviews , typically every year or two years, where will talk about how things are going for both of us.

And based upon that we will look to tweak our service proposition to the individual customer. This could be incentives and benefits for keeping to the Deal.

I get a better deal out of O2 for being a loyal customer who doesn’t rip them off. Why shouldn’t a customer of social housing?

The end of lifetime tenancies has been painted as a terribly negative move within the housing sector. But , executed well , it brings with it the opportunity to introduce a totally different landlord / tenant relationship. One where the tenant is no longer a passive recipient.

Building Social Good – Customer Deal Blog

What would happen if your access to a product depended on you doing something good for society?

That you had agree to give something back. Would you agree? Would you walk away? Or would you lie?

Well that’s what we are testing as part of the new deal.

All customers will be asked what skills they have to share with their neighbours. And if they don’t feel they have any we will work with them to get them some.

This will involve a referral process – either to a community skills bank , a local Voluntary Service , or in the case of someone seeking work,  to a Skills Advisor.

This should have at least one of three outcomes:

  • We untap skills and opportunities that the neighbourhood might need
  • We support the struggling Voluntary Sector in a time of cuts that threaten their very existence
  • We put someone on the path to employment

I’ll be blogging the experiences of the first customers who go through this – and I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts!

A Fair Deal – Changing Customer Behaviours – The Customer Deal Blog

A Fair Deal? Ryanair are "changing customers behaviour"

Michael O’Leary, Ryanairs love him or hate him CEO, was on good form on Monday’s BBC Breakfast. Defending accusations of hidden charges, he said Ryanair were simply changing customer’s behaviours. They were getting passengers to act in such a way that Ryanair could continue to provide an average fair of less than £40.

Now whatever you think of Ryanair – you have to admit they are pretty good at changing the behaviours and expectations of customers.

Even if it changes to “there’s no way I’ll ever fly with Ryanair again”.

From penalties / price incentives for baggage allowances – to suggesting one toilet being shared by 195 passengers and six crew is a good way to cut costs – they set a tone in which the customer is crystal clear what they are getting.

One crucial element of our new Customer Deal is about setting out really clearly what our customer can expect of us and what we should expect of them.

This involved developing a “reasonableness” test. What would the average customer think was a fair deal?

To do this we worked with groups of customers to develop a set of expectations for continued access to our products and services. And we discussed the circumstances where service access might be restricted if a customer didn’t play ball. We even talked about potential “deal breakers” – the circumstances when we might have to say this is not a relationship that is going to work and we don’t want your custom anymore. We tested the ideas in meetings but also crowd sourced opinion online.

The results were interesting.

Customers were far more exacting in their standards and expectations than we were as a business. What was a moral dilemma for us was common sense to them.

Our Deal sets out this new service proposition – and will be reviewed at certain points in the customer relationship.

The new behaviours and expectations we want to push?

  • Paperless Service – Digital by Default
  • Proactive Product Care and Improvement – by us and by the Customer
  • Customer visibility –  someone we do not have to chase after
  • Socially Connected –  gives something back to the neighbourhoods and communities where they live

But rather than Michael O’Leary’s “If you don’t it like go elsewhere”, we’ll be supporting the customer with some new products, interventions and communications.

During the course of the project this blog will spend more time explaining them in detail.

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.

Bridging The Digital Divide – Blog Update. #digitalbritain

Met with BT and Citizens Online yesterday as part of our project to get 100% of our communities online – and doing business with us online –  by 2016. ( Blogs are brilliant – I just completely made that target up , but its my blog so who says it can’t  be true?)

What we want to enable for customers is a journey that takes the digitally excluded from entry point right the way through to being a confident – and responsible –  user.

My problem with the rush to get people online is how they are going to be supported once they are there. Anyone can bung people a bit of technology but getting them to use it properly is another thing.

Someone's Grandmother

It reminds me of when Sonic the Hedgehog came out on the Sega Megadrive. Me and my brother had great fun by giving the controller to my grandmother and convincing her she was playing the game – when actually it was just the demo screen running on automatic. How we laughed as she frantically wrenched the joypad this way and that –  totally convinced she was in contol of the onscreen action.

She probably died thinking she was pretty good at Sonic – when in fact she hadn’t collected a single power ring.

So the project is not just about “getting Bromford customers online” , but getting customers doing something useful online that will make a difference to their lives. It will be about  training on sourcing your shopping quickly and cheaply, getting low cost insurance ,gaining affordable credit, finding jobs and skills opportunities, and developing a social network.

Only by being able to do those things confidently on their own will lead customers to do more business with Bromford online.

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

Project E-bromford…….Broadband Pilot

Pilot aims to get 200 households onto low cost broadband

Some great news to start the week.

We’ve just heard that we have been chosen along with Newport City Homes to be amongst the first UK trialists in a project to provide housing association customers with low cost internet access. The idea is that BT will provide equipment, installation, support and an internet package. Microsoft will supply a free copy of Windows 7 and UK online will provide the training.

Our team will be identifying 200 possible homes we can use in the pilot and if it is a sustainable model we could well roll it out to many more. Early days yet but might lead to something special.

Does involving customers in your business really lead to innovation?

Mario. Not Designed By Customers
It’s been interesting reading the Steve Jobs quotes circulating around the internet. The one that struck me most was this one:
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
This is almost completely at odds with the thinking in the sector I work in . A typical view runs like this (taken from our trade magazine Inside Housing last week):
 “Where residents are at the heart of decision making – that leads to better services / higher satisfaction levels” 
This has been hammered home by years of regulation where the conventional wisdom has been that you shouldn’t make a decision unless there is a real life customer sitting next to you.
But Steve Jobs isn’t alone in his belief that customers can’t imagine the future. Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo has been at the helm of some of the greatest innovations in Video gaming – but does not use focus groups or listen to customers – in the conventional sense at least.
Where do I stand on this?
First of all it’s nonsense to believe that getting a handful of random customers together in a room ( which is what most housing associations actually do) is going to help you improve your service. If managers need customers to help them run the business then arguably they shouldn’t  be managers in the first place.
But on the other hand examples like Jobs and Miyamoto are very rare. They rely on having a unique creative force directly at the helm – capable of not just judging the public mood but telling them what they are going to like in the future. Witness the general public scepticism, ridicule even, when the iPad and Wii were first announced.
There is another way. Co-creation.  Where the customer and the company jointly create products and experiences that are meaningful and profitable to both.
We are working on a couple of projects at the moment where the concept of co-creation is being deployed.
Engaging customers in the development of a new service offer, adapting that service offer based upon personal preferences/circumstances and then offering the customer a range of products/experiences where they have freedom of choice.
I’ll be updating the blog in a couple of days about the process we went through to come up with a “customer deal” .But I’d be really interested in hearing from others on how you are improving customer experience. 

Bridging The Digital Divide….Blog Update

Had a good chat yesterday with Solitaire Pritchard , who despite her name , is not a Bond Girl , but works in regeneration at Newport City Homes.
Like us they are really interested in doing more business with customers online and the greater opportunities it brings them.
Like us their intelligence is sketchy about the actual internet access amongst the customer base.
We are both currently looking at a pilot to bring internet access and training to 400 families who are currently excluded. The project will look at the reasons for exclusion, the barriers to getting online but provide some practical solutions to broadband provision , training and provision of IT.

It’s not a hand out though. Both of us are looking at what a social enterprise/business start up could look like that delivers the project – but also creates some employment and training outcomes.

Watch this space for updates

We can laugh at the end of the Burger King but also need to look at ourselves…

Dumped - The Burger "King"

Burger King have dumped their mascot of seven years after sluggish sales and a huge drop in customer affinity to the brand.  Many of us are wondering why it took them that long to realise that people found the “King” a bit off-putting to say the least.

A grown man in a bizarre plastic mask who is shown in adverts stalking young women or peering through windows at children. Never did sound a winner did it?

But it made me think about the image we project in our own communications. Housing Associations and other businesses with social objectives have often struggled to present an engaging image to customers.

Take our annual customer report last year.  Featuring cover images of customers with grossly magnified eye-balls, smashed up abandoned vehicles on estates, and plenty of images of vulnerable people gratefully receiving service – it bombed.

One resident even claimed it had given her nightmares!

Fed up of glossy and expensive magazines filled with a lot of jargon we listened to customers and drastically changed our approach.

You can head on over to to see how we are trying to change. A word count of only 10% of previous reports, no smiling pictures of happy customers and info-graphics with a noticeable change in our language.

And unless people specifically request it they will get no more print.

We are not there yet by a long way but its a start. And at least it didn’t take us 7 years before we changed anything….


Bridging the Digital Divide – Project e-Bromford

I read an article today about “apple babies”. That’s kids under the age of two who automatically try to use a touch screen when handed a phone, conditioned as they are to expect that if something has a screen it should be capable of manipulation. There are clips on YouTube of japanese kids trying frantically to change TV channels by swiping the screen with their hands- the same things they can do with things like Xbox Kinect, Wii and PlayStation Move.

But this can seem a world away when you work in social housing.

FACT: Only a tiny percentage of our customers do any online business with us. We have very little knowledge of their internet habits , smartphone use, social networks

FACT: We have customers – in their thirties and younger- who attend work clubs, who have no access to the internet, never used it, and look at a mouse the same way one of those Japanese kids would look at a typewriter. Excluded from work as well as technology – they exist in a genuine digital divide

I’ve started this blog as I’m working on a number of projects that depend upon our customers dealing with us online.

These include:

  • A new customer deal – where we want customers to self serve , and be less reliant on us
  • A social media project – where we want to tap into communities via facebook , twitter and google +
  • Our Social Investment/Enterprise proposition – which aims to get 2000 residents into work by 2016. Primarily through an online application matching their profiles to opportunities
I’ll be blogging here about the things we learn along the way – the successes and the failures as we try to bridge the digital divide.
Not the reality for many Social housing users

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.


What Sky could learn from Amazon

Working at home today. Not that I wanted to – but I finally got an engineer out after two weeks of complaining to Sky about a regular drop out with my broadband. The people I’ve dealt with at Sky have been pretty much great and really helpful. Apart from the self test diagnostics they get you to do at the beginning of every call. I’m now happily conversant with what a micro-filter is – how to find a test socket for your broadband – and every single inch of a router.

But despite the people on the customer service team being friendly and willing to help – theres a major problem. Nothing happens next.

The experience has been the total opposite of dealing with Amazon.

My Kindle broke on holiday. One self test via the web and I was promised a call back which came 3 minutes later. First thing they said was ” I hope the experience hasn’t affected your holiday – lets make the priority getting a new one to you and we will sort out the other stuff later.”  And 18 hours later I had a new Kindle.

Now I know its a lot easier to get a new Kindle out to you than fix a broadband problem. But seamless service is common sense and the things Sky could learn from Amazon here are:

Don’t shift ownership onto the customer to fix the problem – take ownership and sort it. 

Don’t let them chase you.

Prevent the customer from keep calling you by getting it right first time.

And after 14 days and 10 phone calls – I have broadband…..

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