John Ghader CEO of Prima Group explains how he has guided his association to become an award-winning digital housing association. Over the last year, Prima has been bringing its digital ambitions to life as they delivered a range of digital projects to improve services to customers, transform our working practices and to deliver efficiencies.
We’ve searched for good digital solutions to business problems, achieving efficiencies through streamlining processes and maximising the value of the software and products we use to get more ‘bang for our buck’ – balancing off-the-shelf solutions with more bespoke software to limit the risk and cost. This approach put us in a strong position for pivoting the business to remote working when faced with the lockdown restrictions and has enabled us to continue to innovate throughout as we accelerated some of our digital plans.
Customers were already able to use the Prima Customer App to access services 24/7, alongside the increased use of webchat, integrated webforms and social media means we’ve seen customer contact through digital channels double, now making up over 40% of all customer contacts. In April we rolled out a regular monthly e-newsletter to keep customers regularly updated (through Square Space), as well as making much more use of targeted SMS messaging for important updates to target groups of customers.
Since lockdown began, we’ve rolled out several automated functions (in QL) for our key housing management processes to free up staff time, including the automation of:
- sending welcome texts for new customers after they move in to improve the customer experience
- logging web form queries directly into our housing management system to reduce duplication of data entry
- escalation and prompting for health and safety compliance and safeguarding tasks to ensure important contacts or milestones are not missed, giving us a more robust approach to this important area
- customer satisfaction collected through SMS text messaging.
Our entire housing application, viewing and signup process moved online in May 2020, as we rolled out video viewings and the ability to digitally sign tenancy agreements (using Signable), a fully remote option that makes it quicker and safer for customers and colleagues.
In July 2020 we introduced augmented reality video calls for customers (with XM Reality) so we can assess repairs without the need to send a surveyor on a home visit, making this more convenient for customers and more efficient for the business. The potential of future lockdown restrictions means we’re planning how we can use augmented reality for more tasks where a home visit can be avoided, such as pre-termination surveys, work in progress checks with contractors and new tenancy visits. We have also successfully used it to deal with disrepair claims.
Our recruitment went fully online too as we moved to video for interviews and on-boarding for new recruits during the lockdown, with 5 posts successfully recruited this way so far.
In September 2020 we implemented our new finance system, moving to Open Accounts, collaborating remotely on set up and testing, producing guidance and training videos to bring colleagues up to speed.
Our next big projects aim to see us maximise the use of Power Apps, develop an agile people strategy, a data project to help us identify and support customers who make a higher demand.