Based in Hertfordshire, Watford Community Housing owns and manages a portfolio of 5,700 affordable homes across South-West Hertfordshire.
Committed to placing their customers at the heart of everything they do, the Watford Community Housing team have been an MRI HomeSwapper user for over five years, and recently added MRI SwapTracker to their technology stack to streamline their mutual exchange process.
Supporting tenants through the cost of living crisis
With the cost of living crisis hitting many housing association tenants hard and leading to an increase in rent arrears, Watford Community Housing is determined to ensure that their processes are as streamlined as possible, taking the pressure off housing teams and freeing up resource to support those with more complex needs.
“We’ve had to take an even bigger and better approach with our tenants to help them with things like rent arrears over the past year,” explained Housing Officer Karis Lomas. “This has had a massive effect on tenants, because a lot of people have been affected really negatively, whether financially or in their mental health. Our role is about giving extra support and going above and beyond for them.”
Lizzie Balmer, Housing Operations Manager at Watford Community Housing, sees technology as key to helping her team effectively manage their time. “With the cost of living crisis we have a lot more complex caseloads, so it’s really important to have systems like this in place that can reduce some of the workload. We’re getting extra time back from this that we can spend somewhere else, to focus on something like rent arrears or anti-social behaviour.“
Modernising mutual exchange processes
Like many housing associations, Watford Community Housing were reliant on a manual process for managing mutual exchanges of their properties, tracking cases via a spreadsheet. This was identified as a potential area where processes could be improved for the housing team and for tenants alike.
“We had a manual process for recording cases, which was less effective and meant we didn’t always meet our 42-day target, and this sometimes resulted in complaints,” explained Lizzie. “It wasn’t the best customer experience either. A lot of people want to do things online now and we didn’t have the facility to offer that.”
“With SwapTracker we can see everything in one place, whereas before if somebody was off sick or you were managing somebody else’s case, it could be quite difficult to find something,” explained Karis.
Streamlining workloads with SwapTracker
To deliver an improved customer experience through the mutual exchange process, Watford Community Housing invested in MRI SwapTracker, allowing customers to manage the progress of their exchange request via an online portal.
Since implementing SwapTracker, Watford Community Housing have experienced a range of benefits, from increased visibility of the mutual exchange process to reduced complaints.
“I can log on and see exactly what I’ve got outstanding and what I need to do”, said Lizzie. “This helps me manage my cases more effectively and manage my time better. As a manager I can also monitor all cases to make sure they are being completed on time, and allocate cases if somebody is absent so we don’t miss anything. It’s a really useful platform.”
Improved customer experience
Just as MRI SwapTracker has streamlined day-to-day operations for Watford Community Housing’s housing officers, they’ve also received positive feedback from tenants about the platform’s convenience and ease of use.
“People want real time updates,” explained Lizzie Balmer. “They’ve got smartphones and with private organisations like banks they can go on and find that information. Now we’re able to give them that, so people are kept in the loop, and that reduces the number of people calling our contact centre for updates too. I definitely think it’s delivered, and it’s reduced the number of complaints we receive about mutual exchanges. We’ve not seen any more of these now because people know where they are.”
Mobilising resource to offer enhanced support
With reduced admin demands on housing officers as a result of MRI SwapTracker, Watford Community Housing’s team are able to spend more time going above and beyond for their most vulnerable tenants.
“There’s an increase in the amount of transformational work that housing officers need to do, and so many complex caseloads to work through. That’s why simple things like SwapTracker can help support the team, ensuring there’s a platform to empower customers to find exchange partners and have a bit of social mobility to help them move. It’s a great platform for that.”
Lizzie Balmer, Housing Operations Manager, Watford Community Housing.