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Actions speak louder than words

Published 9 February 2016

Last week the former Housing Minister, Grant Shapps MP, asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about the steps being taken to ensure social housing tenants can access superfast broadband. It’s a shame he didn’t ask someone from Wakefield!

In recent weeks I have been helping to publicise a host of changes that will transform the way WDH does business, including promoting the fact that we are looking to introduce free Wi-Fi for our tenants.

In today’s retail market customers’ needs have become more diverse, are evolving more rapidly than before and are increasingly influenced by the desire for speed of service and a seamless experience across multiple channels. As both a landlord and not-for-profit business, we believe that’s something our tenants and customers deserve – whether it’s so they can report a repair, pay a bill or find a new home. We have experienced this first hand as in the last 12 months alone, users of our online tenant account have increased by 44%.

For WDH, going digital is just common sense. Online tools can help make our tenants' lives easier and with a business head on, it will help ensure we are fit for purpose in the future.  

Our Total Mobile project has increased productivity by 34% and has given 498 employees better connectivity to enable them to do their day jobs away from the office and nearer to the customer. This brings huge benefits such as a reduction in wasted journeys, significant car mileage costs, improved customer service and more targeted support.

In April this year Universal Credit will begin being rolled out in Wakefield and when the process is finally complete the relationship we have with our tenants will be fundamentally different. Housing Benefit will be paid directly to tenants, and we will no longer have a guaranteed income stream. Its impact could be significant and we have been preparing behind the scenes for some time now.

In the coming weeks we will be recruiting a Digital Business Manager to lead us on our journey to becoming a digital business. They will be supported by our army of Digital Angels who were recruited and trained last year to offer support and advice to tenants who want to learn how to get online.

For those with little disposable income and poor digital skills the impact is stark. According to the Consumer Digital Index there’s a very clear tangible financial benefit to being online. UK adults can save £744 per year by being connected, which is a considerable sum of money for any size family.

Channel shift focusses heavily in our ambitions to 2020 to reflect changing customer expectations and also to streamline the way we do business. Developments to our digital and online channels are already making a significant impact resulting in faster transactions, better communication and real two-way engagement. Channel shift affects all our business areas, and in these challenging times the changes we are planning will help bring essential cost savings as well as build sustainable IT solutions.

By 2020 we hope to provide tenants with internet access, and our recent ground-breaking partnership with CommunityUK.net marked the first step in helping us achieve this. In January we moved another step closer completing our first phase of work, which was to carry out surveys around the district. This will now be followed by a small technical trial in Featherstone and depending on how well it goes we will look to roll out the offer to all WDH properties.

Superfast broadband would be brilliant, but in its immediate absence we're doing all we can to make sure our tenants are prepared for its arrival and our infrastructure is ready to handle all it will bring.

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