Delivering the services that are important to customers means listening to what matters to them and acting on their feedback, says Neal Ackcral, Hyde’s Chief Operating Officer.

Social housing customers are the experts in their homes and communities, so their voices should be heard, and their experiences used, to shape the services they receive. It’s vital that landlords find opportunities to engage with customers and take the time to understand their thoughts, feelings and concerns.

Taking a local approach is one of the best ways to achieve this. The Social Housing White Paper in 2020 and the new raft of consumer legislation stress the importance of the sector showing how it’s learning from customer feedback. Listening isn’t enough – we must act upon what customers tell us.

At Hyde, customers told us they wanted better communication with us and to be updated about services in their local area. They also wanted more clarity about who’s responsible for carrying out tasks and resolving issues, and to see us more in their neighbourhoods.

The direct result of this is our new neighbourhood model, launched this January. This fundamental shift in how we work will guide how we’ll deliver a customer-driven approach to managing homes and keeping our customers safe.

We carried out extensive consultations, local meetings and drop-ins when piloting the approach over an 18-month period. With their feedback and shared experiences, customers helped co-design our service.

The pilot enabled us to understand customers better and improve the data we have on our homes. Customer-facing colleagues are now equipped to meaningfully engage with customers – consequently, we’ll have improved working relationships with them.

Our Neighbourhoods and Specialist Housing service focuses on being more visible to customers, improving communication and delivering better, joined-up local services, and bringing us closer to the people and communities we serve.

Our 55 new neighbourhoods (previously 37) are managed by a neighbourhood officer and has an average of about 750 homes – more than a third fewer than before, giving us more time to be closer to customers and communities.

Neighbourhood officers work closely (and share information) with other teams, including repairs and maintenance, antisocial behaviour, tenancy and service charges, to provide services tailored for their neighbourhood.

Using improved IT functions, supported by our new customer service centre, will also help us provide more streamlined services, give customers more choices to get in touch with us, and reduce time spent reporting issues on the phone.

Neighbourhoods are now aligned with council wards, helping us to foster stronger relationships with local councillors, MPs and other stakeholders.

Importantly, we’ll communicate directly with customers about the services that affect them. They’ll know where to go when they need us and see us out and about in their neighbourhoods more often.

Hyde houses vulnerable customers in our specialist (supported and later living) housing schemes, helping them to maintain their independence. These schemes are now being managed by a dedicated team. We’ve increased the number of housing officers, ensuring more vulnerable customers receive the dedicated support they need.

Our priority is ensuring our homes, buildings and neighbourhoods are safe and well maintained. We’re bringing some compliance checks and repairs in-house, which will ultimately reduce service charges, enable us to better manage our homes and ensure a more consistent level of service.

Engagement sessions, resident groups and surveys will help us assess our new model and its success. We’ll use feedback from and the experiences of our customers to continue shaping the service, with increased levels of customer satisfaction.

Our priority, like all social landlords, has always been providing customers with safe and affordable homes. By listening to customers and acting on what they say, we can also create homes and neighbourhoods they can be proud of and deliver the services they need, in ways that matter to them.

We know we need to change to do even more – to listen more, to put things right, and put those we serve at the heart of everything. That’s why we’re changing, by introducing new approaches like the neighbourhood model, so that we’re easier to reach and are closer to the communities we serve, improving the things that matter to our customers. This demonstrates we care and will play our part in meeting the challenges we face, together.