It was about nine weeks ago when everything changed; COVID-19 would create devastation across the world, claiming the lives of thousands of people and creating unprecedented change to the way we live our lives and do business.
Like many at that point, we had to take some hard decisions in the interest of our residents many of whom are over the age of 70. It was clear to us from the outset that to protect our residents against the spread of Covid-19 we must close off our Independent Living properties to unessential external visitors and withdraw our housing coordinators off site.
Having an older demographic of residents in our properties, we knew the levels of personal stress and the support required would probably be higher during this pandemic.
Having removed our onsite coordinators, we now carefully considered how to deliver our services remotely, to a level that would keep all our customers safe and well and to allow the lines of communication to remain well and truly open.
Understanding our residents and seeking their involvement in our decision making process has always been a strength for JJH – but we have relied heavily on face-to-face forums for the majority of feedback. With so many important decisions to be made, and made quickly, never had this relationship been so critical to the health and wellbeing of so many people. Quick and decisive action was needed to enable us to continue to harness the voice of our customer.
From week one, we put in place a new process of engagement with those residents who are members of our forums and scrutiny panels. We started by setting them up with conference calling facilities and then moved across to video conferencing, the platform we have all grown to love! We provided support to ensure the smooth transition to a digital platform, and while many of our members are in their eighties, moving online presented very few complications or difficulties.
Being able gather real-time feedback and seek approval on all the customer communications, guidelines and procedures that we have been generating during lockdown has been invaluable and a great success. So much so, that as a direct result we have seen a drop in complaints, an uplift in customer satisfaction by eight percent and a significant rise in customer engagement across our customer touchpoints.
Our Resident Involvement Groups have advised and supported us on everything; from amending the way we carry out our daily check-ins with residents, to how we can best deal with any COVID-19 outbreaks in our Independent Living Schemes, and a lot more between and beyond.
While we recognise this pandemic has changed how we operate…operate we must! So at this week’s digital resident involvement meeting, we will be seeking approval for our new property viewing and allocations policy, and presenting and gaining comment on our plans for fitting fire doors. Both of these activities have large elements of social distancing attached to them, and finding out what our residents think about this will help us to shape how we get them delivered.
The world has changed and we want to change with it, continuing the journey to digital with our customers fully on board whatever their age, ability and means. We are working with a number of partners and suppliers to deliver digital skills more widely across our customer base to enable that to happen, and operating digitally as a business is a top priority for us.
We have just welcomed our very first Director of Data and Digital Transformation, who has led some of the world’s most digitally advanced companies through this process. So the future is definitely now; change is here, and we will continue to embrace it in the outstanding and courageous way that we do.