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Yorkshire Housing are really proud of their history. They were formed in 2008 through the formal merging of the different parts of the Yorkshire Housing Group. Today they manage over 18,000 affordable and social rent homes, with plans to build 3,000 more by 2021.

Provider

ITS SmartStyle Training

Published

06/06/18

Changing the way we work, from face-to-face to telephone

The Issue

For many years Yorkshire Housing had dealt with its tenants on traditional face-to-face basis, carried out by local estate managers. The estates are spread all around Yorkshire and the quality and skills of the estate managers varied enormously, it was therefore decided to centralise all of the estate management activities.

The new estate management function was established in one large call centre in Leeds, which had to deal with every aspect of estate management, from a leaking tap to rent arrears. This meant that the call centre operatives had to have a knowledge of customer service activity and extensive knowledge of all aspects of estate management.

The people who staff the call centre were the people who had worked on the individual estates all around Yorkshire, and this meant that while most of them had a broad knowledge of every subject, many of them did not have detailed knowledge of specific areas. For example, a call handler may have good knowledge on how to deal with a heating boiler that went wrong, but a very superficial knowledge of finance and rents.

Our Solution

The programme was called ‘Making the Difference’ and it was launched at a hotel in Leeds including all of the key people involved. The message was: "You ARE Yorkshire Housing, YOU make the difference, you ARE the difference to the customer experience."

A programme logo was developed and this was incorporated into a new design using the key words Customer, Neighbourhood, Learning, Team and Organisation. The launch event was followed up with customer service and specific knowledge learning events. In addition, a support coaching programme was implemented at the same time as developing internal coaches to keep the message going and induct new employees.

The Outcome

There was a natural initial objection to the new way of working both from customers and employees; when you have been able to walk a few hundred yards from your door and have a conversation with a manager about your specific issues, the change to have to pick up a phone and ring a call centre is in many cases enormous. Over the years, many estate managers have built up good relationships with their tenants and now on the phone anybody could be calling about any issue.

Over the time of the training people started to come to terms with the benefits to the Association, themselves and the tenants. As call handlers developed confidence in their new skills, and as tenants realised how easy it was to get an answer, practically 24/7, they could all see the benefits of the new system.

The system has been in place for over five years and it has become the 'norm' for many housing associations, those using it cannot understand how things ever worked a different way!

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