Halton Housing: Becoming Digital First

By Nick Atkin CEO Halton Housing Trust

Last month we hosted our two Digital First Events in conjunction with the good folks at Telefonica. The feedback from the 350 people that attended, including over 150 via the live streaming, has been really positive. So what was it really all about?

The event outlined what’s involved to achieve our aim of 90% of our customers accessing services online by 2018.  But it went much further than that by also showing what else we have been doing to embrace digital technology to improve the way we deliver our services.

What was clear is that what we are doing is not particularly innovative or ground breaking, especially when you look outside the housing sector. However what did become obvious was that there is a real need for housing to evolve and catch up with how services are provided in other sectors.

Despite what some people have claimed, our approach is not about moving further away from our customers.  Our priority has always been to target our resources more effectively and to focus on providing those customers who need additional services with the right level of support. For everyone else our service offer is also enhanced, as we move to providing services 24/7/365, especially for those who we help and support to access these via the internet.  We have used the O2 experience of enhancing the online offer to be customers preferred option.

Our detailed customer research is clearly showing that more people than we assume within the housing sector have access to the internet and all the benefits this brings with it. Our focus is not only on enhancing the online offer for those who are comfortable in accessing services via this route, but also enabling others who aren’t currently able to access the internet to have this choice.

Moving many of our day to day services online is not about reducing our number of employees or cutting costs.  It is about ensuring our resources effectively meet the needs of our customers.   This does not mean we will be preventing customers from contacting us. In addition to our phone based services, our quality online services will be available to all those who are comfortable accessing them in this way.

Through increasing the number of services that can be accessed via an online self-service portal, this will free up resources which can then be targeted on supporting our most vulnerable customers.  Our Open Digital solution, developed in conjunction with Telefonica, will seek to enhance the service offer our customers receive, as well as enabling them to share the same benefits the rest of us already have access to via the internet.

There will be those who are understandably worried by what all this means.  For them this recent blog by Neil Goodrich says it much better than I ever could.

For further information on our #DigitalFirst approach visit our website.