Listening properly, so we can deliver the right outcomes for customers, is the best way of improving satisfaction scores, regardless of what measure you use, says Kate Krokou, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at the Hyde Group.

As the sector readies itself for the first Tenant Satisfaction Measures reports in 2024, it feels right to consider why we ask customers to ‘score’ our performance and how those scores benefit them.

It’s obviously incredibly important to listen to customers – they’re experts in what we do, after all – but it’s not enough just to listen: we must turn feedback into actions that customers can see, and feel, personally. While a satisfaction score can highlight a service area that needs attention, I’d argue that having better dialogue with our customers is even more valuable.

Listening to research calls recently, I’ve heard again a great diversity in opinion, experience and need. Often in the feedback, there’s a particular issue that really matters to the customer. It’s important we remain alert to the thoughts, feelings, needs and goals of individuals, as well as the collective, so we can provide the right service outcomes.

By way of example, at Hyde a key bit of feedback we’ve acted upon this year is that, in the past, while we focused on solving immediate problems, we sometimes missed other issues.

A good example of this has been our focus on tackling damp and mould. While in the past we may have effectively treated the issue, we might have missed why the problem occurred in the first place. We’ve never blamed customers for damp and mould occurring but we now make sure we talk to them, to fully understand their circumstances, whether it’s overcrowding or they’re struggling to heat their home. This updated approach was developed using feedback from resident scrutiny work.

Our customers have also told us that while our service is good, sometimes our communication about more complex issues isn’t as good as it could be. To address this, we’ve set up a new operations team, brought more property maintenance teams inhouse, and we’re introducing a new neighbourhood approach that focuses on being more visible to customers, improving communication and delivering better, joined-up local services.

The neighbourhood model was developed in direct response to what customers were telling us: we should communicate better and update them about services in their area. They also told us they wanted us to be clear about who’s responsible for carrying out various tasks and resolving issues, and that they wanted to see us out and about in their neighbourhoods, creating more opportunities for better dialogue.

We consulted with customers when piloting the neighbourhood approach, with local meetings and drop-in sessions set up to give them the chance to ask questions and share feedback, to help shape the new service.

So, while it’s important to measure customer satisfaction, as it’s a good indicator of what we’re doing right (and what we’re getting wrong), it’s equally important, if not more so, to engage with, listen to and act upon what customers tell us. That’s how we’ll build trust and improve the customer experience.

We also need to be more candid with ourselves, and customers, about the need for change, and what we’re doing to effect that change. We must also be honest with them – we’re not going to be able to solve everything for everybody, all at once.

Making sure people have safe, affordable and comfortable homes they’re proud of is what drives all social landlords, and always has. But we know that by listening more and acting on what customers say, we can demonstrate we’re putting them first, rather than just saying it.