Our Customer Promise

April 25th, 2019 in Mark Henderson, Home Group CEO, blog

Customer baking in kitchen

The NHF’s ‘Together with Tenants’ charter will, I’ve no doubt, prove to be an invaluable asset on our journey of continuous self-improvement, and Home Group was pleased to be one of the very early adopters.

In the two months since its launch, the charter has attracted more than 100 adopters – adopters of significantly differing sizes and from varying regions, which is a good indication of its universal appeal.  

This is our chance to collaborate, as a sector and with our customers, to create a shared understanding of what is expected of us and to make sure we can stand together, confident that we are consistently delivering on the commitments in the charter.

As I said when it was launched, this is not just about our customer service - although getting this right is fundamental.

It’s about the relationships we have and those we build, and the level of trust which underpins these. Our customers have the right to a good relationship with us.

However, a relationship is a very personal thing and this doesn’t look the same to every customer or organisation. We all recognise a one-size fits all approach has certain limitations.

But what the Together with Tenants approach does is set a level of expectation that housing associations should live up to and which should help drive the whole sector forward. While, making sure it’s flexible enough to be right for individual organisations and customers.

What’s great to see is so many housing associations taking part in the pilot. This means we’ll be able to learn lessons and embed the great bits and, if we all agree, perhaps adapt those bits that aren’t quite right, to ensure we meet that expectation, while building in enough flexibility.

What’s been really good for us at Home Group is that the charter has made us challenge ourselves and look at how we can improve our own Customer Promise. This has led us to a series of in-depth conversations with our customers about our relationship with them.

It became apparent in those conversations that if our Customer Promise was going to continue to be the foundation for building strong and effective relationships then it needed to adapt.

Essentially, it needed updating, our customers felt. And, they were right.

Those conversations have led us to where we are today. We now have a new improved Customer Promise, one we launched this week (April 23).

We have engaged hundreds of our customers – from Somerset to Dundee and Cumbria to East Anglia. It’s been challenging at times, but then it should have been. We went back and forth a lot to ensure the new Promise would be fit-for-purpose. It is, and that is down to a true co-production.

It’s a Promise which has been shaped by our customers, and one which will be assessed and evaluated by them.

It’s a Promise which reflects not only our diverse and distinct customer base, but the considerable change as an organisation, and as a sector, we have gone through in the past few years.

The fundamentals of the Promise stay in place. However, the new amendments further increase our commitment to our customers, and improve our customers’ ability to question and challenge us; shape our activity and hold us to account.

We now have six standards by which customers can do that – ranging from providing a safe place to live, and delivering a reliable repairs service, to working with partners for greater customer support.

Sitting underneath each standard is a set of three commitments by which customers can clearly see, and measure our performance. 

Nothing ground-breaking or out of the ordinary I hear you say. And that is precisely the point. This isn’t about new-fangled, extraordinary, the next big thing. It’s about doing the ordinary and the expected, and doing them well. This is what our customers have asked of us. Our challenge now is to deliver.

They want to feel safe; they want us to be reliable; they want us to care; they want to feel part of a community; they want to know what we invest in and they want better connections to partner support.

Pretty ordinary requests. But, hugely important, and massively impactful if we get it right.

To get it right, it will take every one of us within the organisation, and those within our partner organisations, to be pretty extraordinary at times.

We’ll all need to step into our customers’ shoes, however fleetingly, to understand how we need to perform in order to meet their expectations.

Ultimately, however, for us to be successful and to live up to our Customer Promise it is also going to need input from our customers.

We now have in place a clarity of purpose, yardsticks by which to be measured and a wide range of tools, activities and opportunities to allow engagement to hold us to account, including access to our Board. 

I’m sure, given the level of commitment the hundreds of our customers have shown in helping to shape our Promise to date, they will show the same level to ensure we deliver.

Already, the Together with Tenants Charter has played an important part in giving us an opportunity to further enhance our relationship with our customers. I suspect it will help many more do the same.

Mark Henderson, Chief Executive, Home Group