Making the leap…into digital change

Yorkshire Housing’s Alice Keirle reveals all from her latest HouseMark event ‘Digital Transformation: Making the leap from IT projects to transformational change.’

For someone who had previously only been to London once in their lifetime, I’m making quite a habit of it now! This time it was the HouseMark event on digital transformation. The agenda looked intriguing and I was pleased to find the Chair, Jayne Hilditch was as interested and enthusiastic about the sessions as those attending!

Amina Graham and Jonathan Creaser – RHP UK

First up it was RHP, talking about their online service delivery. Having attended the RHP Art of Innovation event a few weeks ago, I knew we were in for a treat. Amina Graham and Jonathan Creaser explained why we all need to take digital seriously. The layout of their online services for tenants is the same as it is for staff. Their idea being it would be easier for colleagues to talk through the digital service with customers if they themselves knew what it looked like and how it worked. RHP started their digital transformation with their colleagues, providing them with a really good digital service. If staff believe in the good of digital, they will be better and more convincing advocates at getting tenants to use the digital service. RHP have put employee benefit information all in one place accessible from home. All RHP employees must have digital skills, even the caretakers. A theme which spanned the whole event was to get the basics right. If tenants struggle to use the digital service to do the simplest of things like paying their rent, then they won’t want to use it for anything else.


Providing a digital service requires a cultural shift to get people to use it. RHP set outs from the start of their tenancy the way they will deal with customers will be digital. Our attention span is now only just six seconds. RHP have made all of their digital service tasks can be either completed, or 3/4rs completed in just six seconds. RHP only have two tenants of those on the digital offer who cannot use the digital service. They have provided tablets to those who needed them, and used digital champions to help these people know how to use their service. They are hoping to roll out the full digital offer to all existing tenants by March 2017. You need to be honest about why you are moving to digital, and explain the legitimate benefits to tenants. RHP have worked really hard to make their digital service easy to use, you can even log in through Facebook!

John Baldwin – Thames Valley Housing (TVH)

My TVH is Thames Valley’s digital service for customers. Their digital transformation started with a customer experience strategy, not a customer service strategy. They developed My TVH in partnership after finding the digital services to buy were not quite right for them. They had users test the product, all the while designing customer stories. The customer stories helped to determine how the digital service should function based on ‘I want to do this, because of that, and then I want to…’. They went for digital by design, not digital by default. TVH had a different approach to RHP. They still want to offer a full range of channels through which customers can contact them. They use the (slightly stolen) phrase ‘so good, people who can, choose to use it’, which I think is so important it’s a service people want to use, but they don’t have to use it if it is not right for them. On each page on My TVH, there’s a section to ask ‘need to talk to someone?’


My TVH looks very sleek and rather bare. This is intentional, it is functional not fussy and I love it – it’s like modern art! The language and layout is very clear, for example, next to rent account it says ‘in arrears’ in red lettering – there’s no misunderstanding there! John said on more than one occasion to never stop iterating. Create a minimum digital offer and build on it from there. TVH do this by analysing the data and killing off what isn’t used. Like RHP, John was recommending starting with getting the basics right, he called them high volume, low demand quick wins, such as rent payments. TVH have developed their own payment gateway.

Sarah Drummond – Snook

Sarah from Snook, a Scottish company helps make digital work for organisations. Sarah was very engaging, and I was drawn in by her comment about dead badgers and council desks (all will be explained soon). Snook is often asked to help make websites and digital services, but often find themselves asking the organisation what they want and why. Sarah was promoting to put user needs first – what does the user actually need to do? The initial focus should be on the service needs, not the website or digital design. Digital services should be designed, don’t just tack digital onto what you already have. Sarah shared a possibly unpopular opinion apps are rubbish! Instead, she recommended making everything mobile enabled. Technology should help not hinder. Social workers became very annoyed when they found themselves spending more time in front of a computer, rather than out helping people – the technology didn’t compliment their job. Snook is keen to get users testing the digital service on their own technology, be it a smart phone or a tablet, so they can test it as they would actually use it. Snook get the people in the organisations to think about what they need and why through getting them to think ‘as a …, I need to…, so that I can…’.


Snook working with a housing association found customers are confused by who does what. For example, what the difference is between a housing officer, and a housing manager. Which leads us on to the example of the dead badger. After searching the council website a resident wanted a dead badger taken away. Unable to find any results under D for dead, B for badger, or A for animal, and not able to get through over the phone, the resident turned up at the council offices and put the dead badger on the desk! Make things simple for the people who will be using it.

Dan Slee –

Dan warned us about sending out communications for the hell of it, and instead ask ourselves, what is worth communicating? It is also important to think about what platform you use to send out the communication. Dan said that just because it is a digital project, does not mean you have to send out digital communications. There is a risk of relying too much on Twitter for communications, when actually the biggest social media platform is YouTube, followed by Facebook. At Yorkshire Housing we have a Facebook account, and some colleagues use Facebook to target their services. Dan says this is a good thing to do, but to reach more people it might be worth going through geographic pages. We were shown some interesting statistics about trust, and it turns out that communications coming from employees are more trusted than those coming from CEO’s, which are actually more trusted than those coming from the Board of Directors. Dan said the best thing to do is to be really clear and human about opening hours. The advice I really took away from this session was to find them where they are, meaning, use the right media to reach the people you want to reach. It would be no good communicating with the over 80 year olds on Instagram, or the millennials in the local newspaper. Finally, you need to have the data, and actually talk to people, and if all else fails, engage them with cake!


Max Chambers – Nextdoor

Nextdoor is a new innovative company like Facebook but for neighbourhoods, It’s a private social network and each neighbourhood is made up of about 1,000 households, set up by one ‘founder’ who puts the area forward, and who then has to get another nine members with 21 days or the neighbourhood will be deactivated. Nextdoor is private in that only people living in the neighbourhood can join that neighbourhood group, and they must prove their address and use their real name. It has recently come to the UK, and is starting to get going. Max was able to talk to us about the potential for use by housing associations in the future. He talked about how the police and councils could use geo-targeting to send push notifications and other messages to certain neighbourhoods about specific things such as flooding or crimes.

Dave Mann – dxw

Dave Mann used to work at the Government Digital Service on Gov.UK. Dave ran through how GOV.UK was established. Prior to being set up, millions were being spent maintaining a vast quantity of departmental websites, some had never been viewed. It was decided to have one website to cover everything. That’s a lot of information. Dave used the quote from the gentleman who set up LinkedIn, ‘if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched it too late’. We were presented with early versions of Gov.UK and you can really see how far it has come. Initially it seemed a bit comical hearing about the government’s success with a digital project, but can you remember when they switched over from the old websites to the new Gov.UK? Neither can I, because it was seamless. People were using the new website and they didn’t even know it. The new Gov.UK did not launch all in one go. Dave’s advice is not to do a Big Bang launch. If you do it gradually, only small bits will fail quickly – which means it can be built back up preventing wastes of time and money.


Versions of Gov.UK were tested and it received feedback in order to improve it. This is how they learned a nice friendly background doesn’t work for government, as people don’t trust it. They had a ‘swim lane’ for each team where the tasks they were working on were placed in order of priority. Each team was responsible for keeping their lane up to date, and it allowed other teams to see what others at a glance were working on. Dave reiterated don’t put the needs of the organisation before the needs of the user. Another thing was not too mimic the structure of the organisation broken down by department on your website. Although this may make sense for the organisation, the user doesn’t care whether car tax is in department A or department B, so long as they can tax their car. Dave also used a quote from the gentleman from Amazon: ‘if you can’t feed your team with two large pizzas, it’s too big’. I think this is a good point, sometimes there can be too many people involved in a project and nothing gets done because of the conflicts of opinion. Having an agile mind set starts with the team. The team needs to be empowered and multidisciplinary, and some changes/progress need to be decided within the team, without constant sign offs from higher up the chain. Dave gave some final tips for the day: be open about what you are doing, publish your KPI’s, and. start small and be bold.

My take aways…

It was another fascinating day in London, I came away exhausted after hearing so much information. Today, I am refreshed and I am starting to think if what I can do, and what Yorkshire Housing could do. So here are my takeaways from the day:

1) Keep it simple, I am a devil for writing way too much which you will know if you have managed to read right down to this point.

2) Don’t get hung up on having the finished version before putting it out there.

3) Keep iterating, never think you’re finished!

4) Beware of dead badgers – keep language clear. I think the one thing I am really going to push myself to do, is to rely less on formal briefings, and get my point across in a more relaxed and engaging way. But like Dan Slee says, I must tailor this for my audience!

Thanks for stopping by – Alice.


Yorkshire Housing meets RHP – innovation is the result

Yorkshire Housing service excellence trainee Alice attends the RHP Art of Innovation event, in Teddington, London on 6 October. Here’s Alice’s take on the event and some reflections for work back at Yorkshire Housing.

It takes a lot to persuade me to get up early. And even more to get me to visit London but I was excited to be attending the RHP Art of Innovation event. RHP has topped Inside Housing’s Innovation Index for two years running. Its ranked number one workplace by the Times Great Place to Work and David Done was awarded ‘most people focussed CEO’ at the HR Excellence Awards.

It was a good start to the event – tiny pastries, my favourite! Once fed and watered, I was struck by the number of people there for the event, with more arriving by the minute – it was standing room only. Up first was Chloë Marsh, Head of Engagement at RHP introduced the day. We watched short videos about Airbnb and Uber – two successful companies. Chloë pointed out reasons for their success – was identifying a common problem, and coming up with an innovative solution. Their secondary focus was profit. Chloë talked about sustaining innovation, making sure people are engaged and projects don’t lose momentum, as sometimes it can take time.



We then heard from RHP’s CEO, David Done. In order to innovate, David says you first need to start with employment – getting the right people. Innovation isn’t just tinkering or tweaking what already exists. You need to be all in it and commit to some new ways of thinking. You also need to support new ideas, give them a try, like Airbnb and Uber, RHP identified one big problem and have come up with an innovative solution: the need to cut costs and still provide excellent service to customers. Earlier this year RHPi – a fully digital housing service was launched. David says this service can help build trust between tenants and the organisation – as tenants can take control. RHP want to be easy to do business with, and David thinks this starts with dealing with it being easy for staff. How can an organisation be easy for tenants to do business with if it’s difficult for staff to do business with?

Next up was a gentleman who works for a start up company you may have heard of… that’s right, it was Richard Zaltzman from Microsoft! He welcomed us to what has been called the fourth industrial revolution and shared his wisdom. If people don’t like the digital platform you have created, they won’t use it. To be innovative, you don’t have to come up with a ‘barking mad’ idea, just find your comfort zone and push it a little. And make sure you’ve got the employees you need to support it.


Mark Brown, CEO of The Dolphin Index is behind Inside Housing’s Innovation Index. He said he hopes in future when he tells people that he works with tech giant Apple and social housing, people will show as much of an interest in the housing sector. The innovation index works by measuring 13 areas to establish how innovative people think a company is and whether the customer satisfaction and finances back this up. Mark talked about ‘dinosaurs’, those organisations who have become stuck in their ways, and resistant to change. We all need to think like start ups – being creative and innovative. But we also need coherence.


Elizabeth Linder, CEO of The Conversational Century has an impressive record, working for Google, YouTube and Facebook. Her role at Facebook was to train political leaders and public figures to use the social media platform, so I think she’s social media savvy. Despite the opportunities, now more than ever, to have conversations, she has seen the reluctance that still exists. Her clients have said ‘before I just had to worry about doing my job, now I have to worry about tweeting about doing my job’. Elizabeth says it’s OK to fail, and that you don’t need to hide it. She was asked what social media platforms should be used and she advised to use the platform most used in your area. My thoughts were ‘where do we get the most complaints?’ Surely it would be the place to be most vocal on social media.



At break it was time for a tour of the building. RHP HQ has a very different feel to my Leeds office. Each meeting room has a theme, and there are large open spaces for groups to gather. The buildings design is to encourage a culture of conversation and collaboration. This culture was made clear by RHP’s Executive Director of Corporate Services, Amina Graham. She advocated giving staff personal responsibility in order to encourage staff engagement. RHP has a one page job description which may put off as many people as it attracts, which is of course intentional – self screening. One of the main ideas I took away from Amina’s talk was to make people want to use the digital platforms. Like RHP does by making tickets to events for staff available only through Yammer.

Next was a very entertaining Tom Somers from L Marks. They work with businesses, identifying needs and finding start ups to fill that need. Often companies only look for specific technology for a specific purpose, but what Tom was saying was to find out what technology is out there and to think how it could be made to work for you. Tom says to tackle one problem at a time, not to take on several problems and try and deal with them all at once. He advocates not only learning from failure, but also accepting and acknowledging failure! He asked us to cast our minds back to our own places of work where perhaps failure is not being accepted, where ‘zombie’ projects are still running with no progress and no one is really sure what they are doing. A final nugget of wisdom from Tom was to ask your staff, because they know what’s going on. Get those who will be using things to choose them e.g. vans.

You may have heard about HouseMark are running a programme called Evolve. Arturo Dell, Director of Product Development at HouseMark was there to talk about Evolve. This programme has worked with social housing to identify the main issues which face the sector: house building, use of data, digital channels, repairs and maintenance, engaging people, and vulnerable and older people. Evolve is then looking for start ups to come up with innovative ideas to resolve the problems. This is a win for everyone – social housing remains viable and start ups get much needed publicity and investment. This is an exciting opportunity for all involved and I look forward to hearing the outcomes.


Finally, Tamara Lohan, Founder and CTO of the travel company Mr & Mrs Smith provided her inspiring story of disastrous holidays, deciding to write a travel guide, the rejection and the little white lies which led to her running the successful travel company. Tamara’s advice was to stick to your guns, if you think it’s a good idea don’t let one or two set backs put you off. It’s the little details which make an experience.

It was an excellent day. On my way back up North I had time to reflect. I came away from the Art of Innovation Event with my mind racing, thinking about what could be brought back to Yorkshire Housing. Here’s just a few ideas:

1) Competitions asking tenants to submit ideas to improve customer experience;

2) Fun uses of Yammer to get people using it, I liked the ‘caption competition’ idea;

3) I specifically thought about some of the complaints received and have a Facebook campaign for tenants to take selfies with staff;

4) Making more use of Facebook and Yammer polls – like we heard at the event, ask the people who use it!

A Storify produced about the event captures key quotes, moments and conversation.

Join #HousingDaychat tonight 8-9pm

Tonight for the second year running we’re inviting you to get involved in #HousingDaychat from 8-9pm. Like last year the chat session will be hosted by Jon Land.

Please tweet us your questions throughout the day until 4pm and after we’ll be picking up to 10 questions to ask during the hour long event.

Remember to use #HousingDaychat and follow @HousingDay for the questions. We hope you get involved and enjoy yourself.


Facebook live chat 19 September

Chair of customer services committee and tenant board member David Perry will be hosting a live Facebook chat with customers on 19 September between 230-330pm.

This is a first for Yorkshire Housing and a great opportunity for you to get involved. If successful, it’s something we would like to run again.

David’s interested in all things customer service and as we develop new channels of customer service, we’re keen to hear your views. We’re taking this opportunity to invite you to chat about your online account and social media experiences.

David said: “I’m really looking forward to my first ever Facebook chat on 19 September. It offers another way for customers to see a human side to what we do. As chair of the customer services committee, it’s really important we can be the link with customers and the business. I’m looking forward to customers to be able to speak openly and directly to us, in an informal way.

“It’s important to understand now more of our tenants are using social media as the basis for how they share and receive information. It makes sense to tap into this. By using a variety of social media tools we are able to have conversations with a wider range of customers and tailor what we do accordingly. We want to be the best we can and offer the best online experiences for our customers. To do this we need to listen to our customers and learn what they tell us.”

There’s been a steady growth in customers contacting Yorkshire Housing via social media and using their online accounts. Over the last 18 months almost 2,000 customers have taken up and set up a new Yorkshire Housing online account.

To get involved simply like our page and search for YHousing page on Facebook.  David will use a hash tag #YHChat so users will also be able to catch with Facebook updates and on Twitter at the same time.

The chat will take place 230-330pm on Monday 19 September national UK #HousingDay and we hope you can join in the conversation.

If there’s good interest the session may also go out live on Facebook video stream.


Recruiting customers


Dave Perry 1 (4)David Perry Yorkshire Housing’s board member shares progress on recruiting new Customer Service Committee members.

Well, here goes with my second blog, and we are recruiting new Customer Service Committee members!

So, how has it gone so far? We’ve had a fantastic response to our recruitment of two members for the Customer Service Committee. We were overwhelmed by over 170 expressions of interest from our postcards, emails, promotions and the hard work of our community investment team.

CSC Wanted Poster web editedLast week we held recruitment taster sessions for those who could attend at our Leeds HQ. We scheduled times over three afternoon/evening sessions, the last one beginning at 5:30p.m., to accommodate those at work.

Approximately 30 people made it. We put on ‘afternoon tea and cake’ to see if this could entice them over and help with filling in their applications. There’s still time until 17 May to apply from our website!

First, information was provided about the business, being part of the committee, and the support available. This gave an opportunity for potential candidates to ask questions and understand more about what’s involved. They asked some great questions too!  Here are some of the questions and brief answers:

What they already knew about their landlord?

Very little/none at all

How are we governed? How’s the committee managed?

Through Yorkshire Housing’s Governance team.

What’s our customer demographic? Different access to the internet/website?

Communicating with customers in many ways, so as not to miss anyone out.

What support is available to members?

Training, development, mentoring and shadowing staff members where relevant.

What’s the level of commitment to serve on the committee?

Six meetings per year, three days a month on average, to cover reading, training, shadowing – getting to know and understand the business.

After the break for tea & biscuits, we provided a case study paper around antisocial behaviour, to give a flavour of the role. At meetings, there will be background reports and recommendations to challenge. The example proved enlightening, and feedback demonstrated the candidates were well equipped to ask the right kind of questions.CSCrecruitamend

CSC recruitment day 2


The sessions ended with Lucy Cheetham our Customer Involvement Project Officer summarising what other volunteering roles are available, and how they could still make a contribution – some don’t involve travelling or too much commitment. To find out more about this, we’re running a survey to gather more information on what customers are interested in and how they wish to be involved.

These sessions left us very confident we can recruit some talented and experienced members for the committee. Thanks to all of those who have contacted us and been involved.

FYI and, as a final note for the time being, Lucy said:

“It was great to see so many of our customers attend the taster sessions. There was a wide array of different skills on show and some great discussions. With only two positions available, the selection process is going to be very difficult. I hope, with the enthusiasm shown, we can use those skills from the unsuccessful candidates to help us shape our services in other ways.”

Next time I’ll blog about the selection outcome and give some feedback from those successful in the process, but don’t forget we still need to fill many other volunteering roles.

A volunteer’s journey with Yorkshire Housing…

David Perry Yorkshire Housing’s board member explains why becoming a volunteer was the right move. This is an ideal opportunity for any customers interested in getting involved to help improve you and our services too.

Dave Perry 1 (4)


“My journey started just five short years ago, when I retired and became bored after a couple of months of doing very little (apart from going fishing!). I responded to a “one-liner” in the tenants’ Your Home magazine by Helen Cowton (community engagement advisor), asking for recruits to the Service Inspectors Team.

Following three years of work with that team (over two years as Chair), I then joined the Customer Service Committee, and am now serving as Chair and I’m also a Board Member. However, you don’t need to be retired as, with any volunteering, you just need to be able to commit some time. Also, it may not even be necessary to leave home to take part – some volunteers contribute on the internet.

“So what’s in it for me?” you may say. Well – how about: not only improving your knowledge about your landlord, but also helping to keep customer-facing services (and satisfaction about those services) at the highest level?

What did I know before I started? Answer: Nothing, and the important thing is – no-one needs to be familiar with the housing sector beforehand, because relevant training is provided. Not only does this help Yorkshire Housing, it can also help you to add to your own CV., e.g. conducting surveys, writing reports, etc. – very useful additions to a CV if you’re looking for work.

Where appropriate, it’s also possible to work-shadow various people, from housing officers, workmen, etc. In addition, for certain committee members, mentoring can be made available. I have worked through these processes and I am now preparing to become a mentor to others.

I’d like to take you further through my journey later but, at the moment, it’s your’s that counts. So, think about it, can you – will you – commit to helping Yorkshire Housing, your fellow tenants and, perhaps, yourself? No matter how small, your involvement matters.

So, in summary to help and volunteer:-

  • You don’t need previous experience of the housing sector
  • You don’t need to be retired!
  • You don’t need to leave home to contribute
  • Volunteers can be any age
  • Time commitment can be as much or as little as suits you, depending on your role
  • Enthusiasm and willingness to work with a team are a necessary asset!
  • Volunteers work towards the bigger picture of the business – any issues relating to their own tenancy must be dealt through the usual channels

Let’s all work together to keep services to Yorkshire Housing’s customers at the high level we deserve!

How you can get involved with Yorkshire Housing?

Yorkshire Housing are looking for up to two new customer members to sit on the Customer Service Committee. If this feels like you, please get in touch.

Once we hear from you, a member of the community investment team will be in touch to explain the next steps.

Join in #HousingDayChat 18 November 8-9pm

#HousingDayChat connecting tenants 18 November HousingDayChat18Nov

Last month we held an inaugural #HousingDayChat to help connect tenants for a Twitter conversation – it was a massive success.

Building on this the next event is going to be on #HousingDay itself on Wednesday 18 November 8-9pm.

Thanks to those of you who supported and took part. And especially tenants without which it would not be possible. This is definitely the kind of springboard needed for further networking and campaigning, following the work by Scrutiny Live.

@24Housing reporter Chris Smith provided a summary of the first chat. And TPAS provided a Storify of the event which revealed over 100 different people taking part and event reach of 48,872 people.  It was a new format and here’s what it was like from chat host Jon Land’s point of view:

“After the success of the first #HousingDayChat at the end of last month, I am delighted to be involved and what promises to be a bigger and even better social media event on #HousingDay itself.

It was great to see so many tenants get involved in the first chat but I think for many, including myself, it was a steep learning curve. Questions and answers came thick and fast; people broke off to start their own conversations and as a complete chat chair novice the whole experience was overwhelming at times.

Of course, there was also the minor inconvenience of my PC suffering from a seven-minute wifi failure – not that participants really noticed so wrapped up were they in their own discussions.

To me, that was what made the whole thing so special. Here were dozens of people, many of them virtual novices to Twitter and the whole social media chat concept, getting stuck in and giving it a go because of how passionate they feel about the value of social housing, what a difference it has made to their own lives, to their families and friends, and the communities in which they live.

This was people giving up their Thursday evening to talk about how proud they are to be tenants. There was no need for their social landlord to cajole them into action; they did it because they want to tell others about the positive impact a decent, secure home can make – regardless of the difficult personal circumstances some of them face.

This is what #HousingDay is all about – celebrating, educating and reminding the wider public why social housing really does matter.

I would urge everyone to get involved on18 November in whatever capacity they can – and join me for the second #HousingDayChat in the evening to celebrate some of the highlights of the day.”

If you are a tenant or organisation who would like to participate, please follow and express your interest via @HousingDay on Twitter. Also please let us know if you have any ideas and questions for the chat session via tweeting @HousingDay or replying to this post

John Popham digital storyteller has kindly volunteered to produce a Storify post event. Please see below for our quick tips for participants taking part in #HousingDayChat.

Here’s a reminder of the questions from last time – it will help prompt thinking for this times chat.

#HousingDayChat – Questions 29 October

Q1 – Are you a proud or happy social housing tenant? Tell us why?

Q2 – What’s the best thing your landlord has done this year? From @Andrew_W_Shaw

Q3 – As a social housing tenant, what are your biggest concerns?

Q4 – Do you feel tenants have a strong enough voice at a local/national level?

Q5 – Why should tenant engagement/scrutiny remain a priority for social landlords?

Q6 – What’s your motivation to be an involved tenant? How would you convince others? From @GREJanet

Q7 – How well does your landlord use social media? Does it make a tangible difference? From @johnpopham

Q8 – With dwindling numbers of social homes available, where are people in most need supposed to live? From @SueR10

Q9 – Do you think your landlord has done enough to consult with tenants over policies such as the ‘voluntary’ right to buy?

Q10 – What is the one thing your landlord could do to improve your quality of life?

Q11 – Let’s end on a positive, what’s the best thing about social housing?

Join in #HousingDayChat connecting tenants 29 October


The inaugural #HousingDayChat connecting tenants for a Twitter conversation will take place on Thursday 8-9pm on 29 October.

We have almost identified at least 50 social tenant volunteers via Twitter to participate in these chats to help support #HousingDay on 18 November. This will provide a springboard for further networking and campaigning.

If you recall the recent Scrutiny Live report underlines how important this work is. Its first key finding was that: “Tenants have valuable opinions and insight – not being heard in national policy debate. It is the duty of, and in the interests of, housing providers to support their tenants to get their voices heard.” The second main finding was that: “The biggest barrier to successful social housing is the attitude of the press, politicians and public to social housing tenants.”

We hope further chats will take place, including possibly one on Housing Day – it’s a new format and we’ll see how it goes. If you are a tenant or organisation who would like to participate, please follow and express your interest via @HousingDay on Twitter.

Jon Land former 24Housing editor will be the host of the session on the @Housingday handle and TPAS have kindly volunteered to produce a Storify post event. Please see our quick tips for participants below.

Ahead of the event we are looking for suggestions and themes for discussion e.g. Proudtenant. Please let us know if you have any ideas and questions for the chat session via tweeting @HousingDay or reply to this post.

Quick tips for Twitter participants (via Buffer Social)

  1. Give your Twitter followers a heads-up before you join a Twitter chat (“High tweet volume warning”) and share an invite to join the chat if it might be of interest to your followers.
  2. Reply directly for targeted conversations with one or two people.
  3. Include a “.” in front of an @ if you want your tweet to show up in all feeds. (Don’t worry if you’ve flubbed this in the past; it’s one of the most common Twitter mistakes!)
  4. It’s OK to dip in and out of a Twitter chat. Drop by for the time you have and don’t feel guilty if you can’t stay for the whole thing.
  5. Be polite and positive!
  6. Don’t be afraid to contribute and jump in! It can be intimidating, but trust me, the moderators and participants will be glad to hear from you!
  7. When answering a specific question or comment from another participant, use Twitter handles to identify who you’re speaking to in order to avoid confusion.
  8. Remember Twitter chats are about connecting and learning, not selling your product. Use the time to provide as much value on the given topic as possible and show your expertise without over-promoting.
  9. Always include the chat hashtag #HousingDaychat in your responses.
  10. Follow up with people after the chat! Keep the conversation going or get to know fellow participants on a more personal level. You never know what new connections you can make!


Other useful social media links

Getting started with Twitter



1 in 4 milestone for ALMO’s self-service

Jamie Angus pic

Jamie Angus, Wolverhampton Homes communications expert follows up on their self service online journey and reaching a new a milestone.

Earlier this week our IT number-crunchers unearthed what has quickly become our first significant milestone on our journey to become a more digital-savvy organisation.

Over recent months, there’s been a wider debate in the corridors of social media about the channel shift journey of the UK’s housing sector. And amidst the hyperbole of drones and whose website was mobile responsive first there seems to be a general consensus that we’re all grappling with the same challenges: user experience and third-party back-office systems not integrating properly being two of the main gripes. Add in to that mix the need for the sector to bank savings ahead of what will likely to be one of the most turbulent financial times the sector has ever experienced then it’s a significant challenge which organisations need to have a plan to meet – and they need a plan now.

This week saw us break the 6,700 mark for registrations to our self-service do-it-online account. That’s a huge result for us which means that 1 in 4 of our tenants are registered and now have the option to pay their rent, update their details, book a repair (and select an appointment time as part of fully automated process which we’re rather impressed with!) and check their rent account whenever they want. But, like most others, we’re still grappling with some aspects which would make the journey an awful lot smoother. Automated direct debit forms, the ability to report anti-social behaviour straight in to our back-office system, web chat – the list goes on. Sadly we’re not ebay or Amazon in terms of user experience – but that’s something we as a sector are just going to have live with, for the moment at least.

The statistical cynic in me could say that registering 6,700 tenants is no big deal out of around 20,000+ potential users.  What makes this striking is that at this stage in our roll out these are all people who have taken the trouble themselves to get registered.

We’re potentially looking at automatically registering everyone with an account, or at least everyone who has a mobile number who doesn’t yet have an account – but we also know that the focus needs to be around active use of the service rather than simply sign up numbers.

That said, our usage stats have also hit a significant milestone.  For the first time last month, we got almost 1,000 users accessing and using their accounts. Still small-fry compared to our phone call numbers I grant you – but nonetheless, a significant milestone in terms of our journey to be a digital first organisation.

The other significant step we’ve taken is to conduct some research. We used last year’s STAR survey to establish how many tenants had internet access, either through computers, phones or tablets. With 40% saying they didn’t – if that sample was representative of our tenant base (which with 1,000 participants we think it is) then that’s nearly 10,000 households who face getting left behind in the modern world – especially with Universal Credit on its way to Wolverhampton in February. We’ve asked our MPs to write (well, email) the government to ask what plans it has to help council tenants who risk missing out by being digitally excluded).

We’ve got a ‘digital outreach’ group who are now using our data sets to identify those most at risk of needing to apply for Universal Credit and who are contacting more than 100 of those tenants a week to get email addresses, make sure they have the correct bank accounts and signpost those who need it, to computer classes and IT support.

It’s a start – but we’re hoping to make a big announcement next month about a local organisation who share our concerns and who are going to support our call for our city not to get left behind in the digital world.

We’ll keep you posted.

Put your tenants at the heart of #HousingDay

#HousingDay is back this year on 18 November

At up to 3,000 tweets per hour #HousingDay 2014 travelled at nearly the speed of a comet. The housing sector and its tenants came together for a truly amazing social media event. It produced a staggering 30,000 tweets and countless real stories, trending on Twitter all day. It peaked at number two behind #cometlanding with 6,000 contributors, reaching a potential audience of seven million people.Logo2015-01

Amidst the negative noise around social housing, we must ensure our collective voice is heard. Our focus for #HousingDay 2015 is to share stories of why our tenants are proud to live in their homes and communities. By putting them at the heart of #HousingDay we can help start to build a new narrative.

We’ve borrowed the simple ‘Proud to be a Tenant’ campaign from Berneslai Homes and given it a national platform. The challenge is to encourage tenants to explain why they are proud to be tenants of social housing and the difference it has made to their lives. Jenny Osbourne, CEO of TPAS was one of the first to get on board. She said: “For me the key this year is tenants taking centre stage, with the #proudtenant campaign within #Housingday. They rightly should do so with no spin and no filter. Tenants telling it, like it is about their experiences of living in social housing. We need more tenants to get involved. To be successful it needs to cut through the PR stories and hear the real ones. Our tenants are the key to ensure we regain the story in order to humanise, not demonise the sector.”

The recent Scrutiny Live report underlines how important this work is. Its first key finding was that: “Tenants have valuable opinions and insight – not being heard in national policy debate. It is the duty of, and in the interests of, housing providers to support their tenants to get their voices heard.” The second main finding was that: “The biggest barrier to successful social housing is the attitude of the press,
politicians and public to social housing tenants.”

This year, we will be looking to find at least 50 social tenant volunteers via social media and to connect them together. This will provide a springboard for further networking and campaigning. Why are your tenants proud to live in their homes or neighbourhoods?

Research opportunities

Last year’s #HousingDay research carried out in conjunction with Ipsos Mori’s Ben Marshall painted a picture of a British public favourable to social housing. By five to one they agreed rather than disagreed that social housing plays an important role in tackling poverty but many remain oblivious to the types of people who live in social housing. We will again be looking at research opportunities around #HousingDay, so if you have any ideas, get in touch.

Wider week of campaigning

This year #HousingDay will link up and be part of the National Housing Federation’s Community Impact Week (16 – 22 November). The Federation is organising a full week of activities focusing on good practice and highlighting the difference we make to communities.

Landlords and tenants are in this together, we need to include genuine tenant voices. If you have any one who wants to be involved, get in touch via @HousingDay and we will share proud tenant stories on 18 November.

Adrian Capon is part of Yorkshire Housing’s Communications Team.

This blog first appeared on Inside Housing real stories on 4 September 2015.