How To Engage With Tenants: Relational Vs Transactional Approaches

Tenant engagement isn’t new. But for some social housing providers, knowing how to best approach it isn’t always obvious. Often there is an over-reliance on traditional methods such as template letters and phone scripts. However, the best tenant engagement strategy goes beyond this.

There are different approaches to tenant engagement. Depending on your needs and the needs of your individual tenants, you’ll have to determine which one works best for you. Here, we aim to help you make this decision…

Tenant engagement: the basics

The foundation for thinking about any behaviour is that context is key. It is integral to all behaviours. In short, it’s naïve to treat processes and services as if they exist in isolation, and providers shouldn’t try to optimise their services without considering the underlying context – the relationship between a landlord and a tenant [LINK: The importance of a landlord-tenant relationship].

As a starting point for thinking about this relationship, it’s useful to consider what previous engagement tenants are likely to have received and where this engagement approach would fall on a transactional-relational continuum.

Relational or transactional?

Typically, transactional approaches are short-term engagement methods aimed at getting something from a tenant with minimal fuss. Relational engagement methods operate with a long-term view, aimed at building relationships and acknowledging the need for a stable foundation for future engagement.

Both strategies have their respective strengths, weaknesses and risks, and while we need to remember that context is key in choosing the best strategy for a given situation, generally speaking, the long-term nature of most tenancies fits more naturally with a relational approach. Not to mention this approach often has a more beneficial impact on tenants…

The best tenant engagement strategy

The success of relational engagement depends on several factors including: trust, respect, reciprocity, empathy and consistency. Many of these principles, and how to apply them, will seem intuitive and are probably being carried out to some degree already. But if you’re not sure, take a look at the key aspects of a relational approach:

  1. Perceived fairness – Research has suggested that when individuals feel they have been treated fairly, they are more likely to accept decisions, show greater compliance and behave in a more cooperative manner. Consider how you’re speaking to your tenants and whether they would view your actions as fair.
  2. Active participation – Not only does involving tenants within certain decisions force them to engage, but it often results in more reasoned decisions. This is particularly suited to situations where there is no one-size-fits-all and when the decision-maker has to engage in follow-up behaviour, such as arrears management.
  3. Reciprocity – Think about how you frame or present information. In terms of rent collection strategies [LINK TO GUIDE: Arrears Arrangements – How To Approach Them In A Post-COVID World], rather than engaging with a tenant to “collect arrears payment” we could be engaging to “help get their rent back on track”. This reciprocity – responding to a helpful act by returning the favour in some way – is inherent in engaging with tenants.

How Voicescape can help

Establishing a culture fostered on perceived fairness, active participation and reciprocity is likely to create a positive relationship with tenants. Plus, bring about clear benefits for more specific processes.

Targeted engagement campaigns for tenants can further nurture these benefits, and we have social housing management software that can help with just that. Why not get in touch at info@voicescape.co.uk or on 0161 259 1122 to see how it could help your housing association today?