When Christopher Todd joined Your Homes Newcastle as Senior Income Advice and Collection Manager he was tasked with providing a service that engages staff, looks for any inefficiencies and ensures the Arm’s-length Management Organisation (ALMO) is prepared for the future.
But when the global pandemic hit, he was forced to reassess how the housing provider was currently using Voicescape technology to support not only their tenants but also their staff…
Your Homes Newcastle was already using Collections. But when Universal Credit claims went up by 742% at the end of March, they knew they needed to adapt their approach to make use of the system’s full capabilities.
Not just dealing with new UC claims, but also those newly unemployed, Your Homes Newcastle wanted to support their customers while ensuring the conversation wasn’t just focused on rent.
Lockdown also presented challenges to both engaging tenants and managing workers. Income officers were unprepared to work at home; with just 3 laptops between 30, they needed to drastically upgrade their system while finding a new way of using Voicescape’s Collections solution.
The housing provider invested in computers for all of its income team and accelerated the upgrade of its phone system. Having processed the data through income analytics software, Your Homes Newcastle used Voicescape to ensure the service provided was specific to the people who needed it.
By running their caseloads through Voicescape, they determined who was high-risk – those not paying rent, those with benefits that had been stopped – and spoke to them, sending specific messaging about relevant services and support. For example, they contacted everyone who was new to Universal Credit to ensure that they understood the process.
Automated phone calls were also sent out asking tenants to press 1 if they were ok, and 2 if they needed support. Further down the line, they added an option for tenants to press 3 if they were ok and wanted to make a payment. A text message with contact details of their dedicated income collection officer was sent to anyone who couldn’t be reached via a phone call.
In addition to this, the housing association worked alongside Voicescape to ensure that the content and timing of their messaging was varied with regional accents for automated calls.
By communicating regularly with their tenants, Your Homes Newcastle gained a clear picture of their tenant’s situation – and likelihood of payments. They were able to use these conversations to predict behaviour and take action – for example, preventing a missed rent payment from someone whose housing benefit had been reduced.
In just seven months, they were able to refine their solution to:
- Contact 2,000-3,000 customers on a weekly basis.
- Improve engagement levels from 45% to 70%.
- Reduce customer complaints regarding overcontact .
- Free up staff time, allowing them to act on cases that needed it.
- Decrease the number of cases being flagged by setting their own parameters.
- Save capacity of around 6 FTE every week having used Voicescape Collections for 2 years.
- Redeploy resources – 7 income officers were taken away from debt recovery and instead moved to financial inclusion and encouragement service, increasing the income of their customers by over £1 million so far.
- De-escalate 15 out of 17 planned evictions, instead putting tenants on regular paid payment plans.
“We knew that we didn’t just want the conversation with our tenants to be about rent. It needed to be about understanding our customers and their circumstances. Voicescape technology has allowed us to do this while freeing up time to have these conversations… It also allowed us to have better conversations, discovering additional issues our tenants were facing… things like not having enough food… things that as a social landlord we make our priority on behalf of our tenants.
“In the last year we’ve built better relationships with our customers, our engagement rates have improved significantly and we’ve removed a letter culture from within the team – all of this while seeing collection figures above 100%! We’ve been able to achieve this by introducing technology – including Voicescape’s Collections platform – to make the job easier and remove a number of non-essential tasks.” Christopher Todd, Your Homes Newcastle.