Satisfaction is not enough. Residents should think we are Outstanding

First Published: 28/02/2019

How do you address poor customer satisfaction, an ageing stock profile, and increasing complaints about service levels? At Johnnie Johnson Housing (JJH) we want every customer to describe us as Outstanding by 2021. It’s no small ambition and I’ll be honest – some parts of our organisation are making dramatic changes to get us there.

We had previously refocused our Neighbourhoods Team on offering independent living support – a step change from simply thinking about ‘scheme management’. But resident feedback was clear that the management of planned and maintenance work at our properties – our asset management – fell short of expectations.  So in 2018 we took a step back to better understand what wasn’t working. We found opportunities to improve communication, collaboration, and – fundamentally – how we do things. But to achieve this we needed substantial change. The outcome – a new, unified, Homes and Services Team.

Restructuring Asset Management

Residents told us that they felt their experiences of repairs, maintenance, cleaning and gardening was disappointing. So we started there. We combined a complete restructure of our asset management approach with the recruitment of a team enriched with a range of experience from within and outside our sector. Mindful of not ‘throwing baby out with the bathwater’, we successfully encouraged a former Neighbourhood Manager to join the Assets Team – drawing on her broad experience of working with residents and at the same time helping establish bridges between Assets and Neighbourhoods. We knew we needed people who excelled at contract management, negotiation, and customer service, and this informed our recruitment process. Today, Assets has a better understanding of what customers want, and how to make that happen and at the same time offer a thoughtful and professional service. Pictured are the new team at Astra House.

Driving behavioural change

It wasn’t only Assets that changed. We also simplified reporting lines to encourage better communication. Now, our Regional Managers work together, reporting to a single Head of Service. They gain from deeper understanding of each other’s challenges – and that flows through so that the entire Homes and Services Team benefits from better communication. We’ve seen genuine culture and behaviour change stemming from this fairly simple realignment.

Prepare to succeed

These are not the only changes at JJH. Around 80% of our leaders were recruited in the past two years and their training and empowerment is a top priority for JJH. Our recent drive to offer support, training, and development to this group is seeing change ripple through the organisation as individuals start to apply what they’ve learned with their teams. We’re driving forward with improvements to the processes and tools we work with so that the robust foundations we need are in place. We want to take away bureaucracy and technical niggles so that our people can ‘get the job done’. It’s a tough but rewarding time to work at JJH. We’re on a launch pad, and our mantra is less about targets and more about constant improvement. We want to be better this year than we were last year. And better again next year.

So, what next?

We’re about to launch our Asset Management Strategy. It’s a roadmap for achieving that goal of 100% customer satisfaction. It’s a stretching but realistic blueprint for how we’ll deliver. The delivery plan of the strategy is interlinked to the five priorities that residents have said we must achieve:

Right first time
Safe and secure
Personal contact
Quality and choice
Value for money

These are the ways that we measure ourselves, along with a net promoter type ‘how likely are you to recommend us?’ question. Our monthly survey helps us understand what we’re doing right, and where we need to improve. Its simplicity is what makes it most useful – and we use it internally as well as externally, to help our people learn and develop.

We’re already seeing improvements, but we’re not there yet. Our scores range from 70-92%, but they will continue to improve.

JJH is in its 50th year. The world certainly is a different place since our wartime hero founder Johnnie Johnson first set out his vision for helping people find homes. Fundamentally we are still here to do the same work – but in an era of new technology, faster competition, and social media that enables every resident to tell the world their opinion. That’s why it’s more important than ever for us to get it right first time, and to delight our customers.

#Outstanding, here we come!

About Kathryn Fox-Rogers

Kathryn joined Johnnie Johnson Housing in 2015 and is Assistant Director, Homes and Services. She was previously Head of Housing Management at Stafford and Rural Homes and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Housing (MCIH). Kathryn provides strategic and operational direction to the Neighbourhood, HUB and Asset Teams, empowering colleagues to deliver outstanding services and embracing a ‘one team’ approach.