The tragedy of two-year-old Awaab Ishak’s death from mould exposure in 2020 has been a wake-up call to housing providers in the UK. But while the issue of how to tackle damp and mould more efficiently has stolen the spotlight, the deeper, more critical concerns should be the gaps in how UK housing providers currently engage with tenants and maintain their properties. Inefficiencies in internal operations, lack of unified communications, and poor surveillance of homes were just some of the issues identified during the investigation.

At the same time, UK housing providers are facing increased pressure from rising inflation, which has impacted repair and maintenance costs. These include materials, labour, fuel, and vehicle fleet operations. Add to that increased scrutiny from the Housing Ombudsman and stricter compliance regulations, specifically the new tenant satisfaction measures that came into effect 1 April 2023, and it’s no exaggeration to say that housing providers seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Yet, opportunity exists for improved communication and more proactive maintenance through strategic use of technology. And there is high demand for the move to digital channels to improve experiences for tenants and contact centre agents.

Simple-to-use solutions, such as communication APIs, provide a cost-effective means for housing providers to meet tenant and staff demands. These solutions can remove internal complexities, improve tenant engagement experiences, increase productivity in the contact centre, and keep pace with the digital demands of modern citizens—all while reducing operational costs.

Address tenant safety issues like mould more efficiently

Imagine the typical process that your agents currently go through to address maintenance issues. Likely, they’ll receive a tenant complaint, schedule an appropriate time for a site visit to assess the damage, travel in person to the address, determine the urgency of the issue, and then reschedule another appointment to resolve it if necessary.

If the situation is deemed non-urgent and the tenant is asked to monitor the issue, the agent goes through the same process all over again the next time the situation escalates. Time, human resources, and fuel expenditures add up, resulting in bloated costs—costs that can be significantly reduced with the help of 8x8's Video Interaction API.

Video Interaction allows tenants to show their property in real time over the phone, giving agents the opportunity to immediately assess the urgency of an issue and dispatch appropriate resources for further inspection or resolution as necessary. All this can be accomplished without having the agent first travel to the site in person, speeding up resolution time and lifting tenant satisfaction while reducing wasted service trips.

Best of all, tenants do not have to download and install a custom app on their mobile phones. They simply have to click on a link sent to them via SMS to immediately start a video call with your agents.

Improve tenant engagement to reduce arrears

Tenant arrears continue to be a challenge for housing providers, especially in the wake of the pandemic and a global financial crisis. Tenants on Universal Credit have proven to be more vulnerable, with over 66% of claimants found to be behind on rent. To make rent collection more effective, housing providers need to look at solutions that not only facilitate more effective rent collection, but also provide more consistent and proactive tenant engagement.

Traditional methods of trying to collect rent have proven to be inefficient and costly. Direct mail costs an average of £1.60 per letter while only having an open rate of 60%. Just having to send an average of 1,000 letters per month will result in an annual cost of £19,200. What’s more, the 60% open rate is just an estimated average—there is no definite way to track or confirm that your tenant has received and read your letter.

A solution like 8x8’s SMS API allows housing providers to fully automate their communications workflow and transparently track important metrics, such as delivery and open rates.

Employees are able to execute and monitor communications campaigns on one single interface for better consistency and service, which allows housing providers to reach out more proactively to tenants who are struggling with rent. This makes it easier for landlords to initiate assistance, such as negotiating repayment of arrears in smaller amounts or helping them with Housing Benefit claims.

Cut operational costs to combat inflation and lift productivity

Video Interaction and automated SMS notifications reduce valuable time spent on “wasteful” processes, such as travelling and mailing. The result is more effective use of your employees’ time. Agents and staff are able to serve a larger pool of tenants and resolve more complaints in the same amount of time, resulting in happier tenants, better compliance, and lower risk of reputational loss.

Platform Housing Group is one such successful case study. After just one month of implementing 8x8’s Video Interaction API and unified communications platform, they experienced increased agility in operations for greater service speed and operational savings. By allowing their property maintenance division to offer video triage calls to tenants, they were able to resolve about 39% of issues remotely, many of which occurred outside of business hours.

Improved tenant engagement and support has never been more critical

In spite of being under increasing pressure to manage competing demands and expectations, it’s important to remember that the core purpose for every housing provider remains the same: to provide quality, safe, and secure homes that people can thrive in. Omnichannel experiences and communication APIs offer powerful tools for overcoming current and future challenges related to compliance, tenant engagement, and cost reduction.

You can improve maintenance efficiency while meeting the digital demands of both your tenants and your internal staff. Schedule a demo today, or find out more on how Britannic can help you implement 8x8 Communication APIs, to learn how to start integrating SMS and Video Interaction into your tenant engagement strategy.