Case Study

Lewisham Homes improves communication & rent collection with SMS text messaging 

Lewisham Homes is an enterprising, not-for-profit organisation, set up to improve housing in the London borough of Lewisham. As well as managing 19,000 homes on behalf of Lewisham Council, they operate their own maintenance company, build new homes, and find valuable ways to invest in the local community.

Lewisham Homes is taking full advantage of new technology, developing innovative services and placing their residents right at the heart of everything they do.

The need

As a forward-thinking organisation, Lewisham Homes is committed to delivering a Digital and Business Transformation Strategy that provides efficient services to residents and builds thriving neighbourhoods.

Recognising that customer expectations have changed and that digital service delivery is now more acceptable to the public and often expected, Lewisham Homes embarked on a Digital Transformation project that involved moving away from traditional communication methods to the introduction of smarter, digital communication to enable them to reach their customers instantly and facilitate two-way communication. MRI Communications Manager (formerly Castleton) 2-way SMS texting solution was chosen as the ideal solution to deliver benefits to both the organisation and its residents, by streamlining its information processes using mobile technology.

“We want to use technology to deliver services which are easy to use and offer our customers a choice. Many residents shop, bank and deal with a range of day to day needs online because they offer the ability to transact flexibly at speed and with ease. ‘Customer Effort’ is a key driver for achieving digital engagement and customer satisfaction. Residents want to complete simple tasks such as making a payment, with as little effort as possible.” (Lewisham Homes Customer Experience Strategy 2019-23)

The solution

Lewisham Homes uses MRI Communications Manager to improve the effectiveness of its communication and improve resident services.

  • MRI Communications Manager also helps the organisation reduce the increasing costs of traditional communication methods such as letters, visits and calls (e.g. calls to call-centres can cost £9 or more*) and reflects the organisation’s long-term sustainability goals.
  • Residents are contacted via their preferred channel using SMS texts to their mobile devices.
  • Communications Manager quickly and easily integrates with most Housing Management solutions.
The results

Several departments are using MRI Communications Manager, from the income team to repairs and marketing.

  • Rent Arrears Management: the finance team has set-up a workflow using automated texts to help with arrears
  • management, sending texts to residents as ‘soft reminders’, and have already seen a reduction in revenue collection times
  • Balance enquiries: residents can now send balance requests at any time, and on average Lewisham Homes gets up to 3000 text balance requests every month; 60% of which are outside office hours.
  • Marketing & Communications: the Community Relations, Communications and Welfare Benefits teams send messages to residents about community events, local news and any promotions, as well as SMS resident satisfaction surveys, which helps Lewisham Homes to build better-connected communities.
  • Repairs: the contact centre repair teams can send out immediate alerts to residents, either as broadcast messages for large-scale events such as power cuts, or tailored maintenance alerts such as lift breakdown or water supply problems; which keeps residents informed and provides assurance, which in turn reduces demand on the call-centre, and improves resident relationships with the organisation.
  • Business Continuity: an unforeseen benefit of Communications Manager was in Lewisham Homes’ recent Disaster Recovery (DR) exercise. Staff were sent texts during the DR practice to ensure communication channels were kept open and staff informed.
The benefits

This digital channel shift brings benefits to both residents and the organisation; providing convenience and improved personalised services. Lewisham Homes has developed standard workflows to improve service delivery and communication with residents, reduce organisational costs and increase staff productivity.

  • Reduce the demand for customer contact centres
  • A mobile-enabled digital communication solution 
  • Enhances response times
  • Reduces rent arrears
  • Lowers communications costs
  • Cross-departmental module-use

“As a progressive social landlord, Lewisham Homes recognises the importance of communicating with our tenants in a way in which they feel comfortable responding – and that’s using digital. Since the implementation of MRI Communications Manager, we have seen an increase in resident responses where traditional methods had failed – e.g. letters and calls. We believe that people read and respond to texts – as they are less intrusive and can be dealt with quickly and easily.

An example of this is with rent arrears; our income team had repeatedly tried to reach a resident using letters, calls and even visits, and had no response. When we texted the resident, we received an immediate reply and confirmation that they would make immediate payment. 

MRI Communications Manager is paying dividends across the organisation and is giving our residents the option to respond to us using a smartphone. People often don’t answer the phone to unknown numbers, ignore letters and are often away from home, people do respond to texts, as we have already seen”. Fiona Palmer, Business Analyst, Lewisham Homes

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