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With the National Housing Federation (NHF) recently unveiling plans to improve the relationship between housing associations and tenants, there has never been a better time for associations to review their communications.

With that in mind, in our latest blog Josh Armstrong from our Public Sector sales team discusses the reasons why housing associations should make their customer communications more engaging.

Why is engagement important?

Customer service is firmly under the microscope within the housing sector at the moment, and some of the associations we work with are telling us that their tenants are feeling disengaged. There needs to be an open channel of communication between the housing association and the tenant, and this also needs to be more regular too. At the moment, our work tells us that around 70% of tenancy communications is for responsive or reactive repair requirements, and only 30% is for ad hoc pieces. We think that this needs to change. Given that rates for council social housing rent has risen by 2.1% in the last eight months, residents need to feel that this extra cost is justified and that they are valued. Although these added costs are there to help cover the cost of maintaining properties, if better service was provided to tenants and a positive relationship was built between both parties, these may not need to rise in the first place.

Ways to personalise communications

It’s important for housing associations to engage with tenants on a local community level. This means offering tenants information on local educational opportunities, jobs, clubs for kids and adults, as part of a pack of materials that they are given when they commence a tenancy. Most housing associations have their own portal for maintenance and repairs where tenants can go to log reports. The feedback that is collected here could also be used within communications – for example, the housing association could write to the tenant to thank them for their feedback and address the steps they are taking to put things right. Engaging on a consistent and frequent level with a tenant is important in terms of ensuring them that they are getting a good service from their housing association.

Rent statements, either monthly or quarterly, are also another opportunity to engage with tenants. Within the pack that the tenant receives there is normally a breakdown of what the tenant owes and has paid, as well as a direct debit mandate. Information is often sent together as a means of cost-saving. A housing association could use this mailing to their advantage by including marketing materials that highlight things of interest to the tenant in the local area where they live.

At Latcham Direct we are certainly seeing something of a ‘communications merry-go-round’ at the moment within the housing sector. If more communications were proactive, we think that the benefits for tenants and housing associations alike would be much better. We know that housing associations have communications strategies in place, and these should always have the tenant in mind. We appreciate that personalising communications does come at a higher cost, but the possibilities for improved engagement are really exciting. For example, if a housing association has 100 tenants across four locations, a communication can be tailored based on where they live by flagging data at a data processing level. Making communications more frequent and more planned should be the direction that housing associations are heading in – at the moment some only see an opportunity to speak to their tenants when a problem arises, or money is required, but there is so much more than can be done to build these relationships.

At Latcham Direct we provide print and digital communications that can be tailor fitted for housing association tenants. Digital print is so flexible, which means that we can create bespoke and personalised documents, such as emails and PDFs with imagery that is customised to the property or area in question.  Through our partnerships, our customers in the housing sector regularly and proactively engage with tenants in a bid to further galvanise relationships. To find out more about the personalisation services that Latcham Direct offers, contact Josh Armstrong, our Business Development Executive by emailing josh.armstrong@latchamdirect.co.uk

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