Essentially, we have developed a self-build, self-service, subscription-based platform that delivers total control to providers and easy access for customers – and, because it is cloud-based, it is cost-effective, secure, and quick to deploy. Castleton.DIGITAL is so simple to use, that solutions can be built from the ground up and configured completely by customers. The idea is to provide our housing providers with the necessary tools to build their own completely tailored system, to meet specific operational requirements, and to support individual digital journeys. Legacy is not an issue either. Castleton.DIGITAL is agnostic to core systems, so a move to the new platform will be simple, seamless, and cost-effective. The solution will be hosted by Castleton, who provides a managed service, and although there is a customer support desk, Ian Niblock, Director of Development & Product Strategy expects demand to be minimal. “We have found that with just two hours of training, people have been able to build a completely functional app, that pulls data from wherever it’s stored and signposts the individual journey,” he explains. Castleton.DIGITAL offers options for different colours, fonts, and styling, but more critically, the workflow process can also be purpose-designed, which is key to the journey for users. “This is cutting edge, if not bleeding-edge, technology,” says Niblock. “There is absolutely nothing like this in the social housing market right now. We have used Progressive Web Apps to create Castleton.DIGITAL, which is a brand-new way to deliver an effective user experience on the web. Unlike apps that need to be downloaded from app stores, there is no install required for Castleton.DIGITAL, it loads quickly to mobile phones and delivers optimised screens.”
The solution goes to the market after 18 months of intensive development and trials. According to James Massey, the project has been driven by several factors; the loss of revenue experienced by landlords after changes in social housing rent policy in April 2016, the government’s drive towards digitalisation and, perhaps most tellingly, the coming of age of ‘Generation Z’, born at the turn of the millennium, now reaching adulthood and entering the social housing market. “This younger generation coming into social housing expect online interaction, they do not engage on other channels, they don’t make phone calls or write letters and providers need to be switched on to this,” he says. “Digitally attentive providers offering great multimodal service will find their properties are more in demand, they will have less void time and in many cases be able to command higher rents – as well as meeting government requirements to engage better with customers.”
The government’s green paper calls for customers to have a stronger voice, be more able to influence decisions and have complaints dealt with easily and more quickly. Castleton.DIGITAL is designed to deliver on all these demands. It enables users to set preferences from the outset, enabling providers to return a unique digital journey for each customer.
Furthermore, the platform has been based on deep-dive research into customers’ attitudes and a real understanding of what’s needed from digital communications. Accordingly, providers can choose which languages to offer, provide a simplified version, with easy to understand phrasing and iconography, and much more to suit varied customer requirements.
“Customers are becoming more digitally confident our solution responds directly to this need.” Massey points out. “Castleton.DIGITAL will allow providers to interact with these customers efficiently and effectively, freeing up the necessary time and resources to deal with those customers who require a more intensive service.”
Castleton.DIGITAL works on all platforms and displays on all devices. The app can be downloaded instantly from a link – either from a website or from an SMS text sent by the providers, so users can easily access it, whether existing, new, or prospective customers. “Nobody else is offering anything like this solution in the social housing marketplace,” James Massey concludes. “It is a completely different take on the flat representations of data we are used to, offering greater functionality, flexibility, and interactivity. It has enormous potential and we will be putting great force and energy into driving it forward. Castleton.DIGITAL is an absolute game-changer – not only for us but for the social housing sector.”