Understanding customer satisfaction and perception has never been more important within the social housing sector. The last few years have brought significant disruption to the sector, from the Grenfell Tower disaster to the subsequent green paper and more recently, unavoidable interruption to service delivery caused by the pandemic. Which is why many housing providers are carrying out baseline STAR surveys, now. In this blog, we explore why this fundamental research is so critical to your business.
What is the STAR survey?
The STAR acronym stands for Survey of Tenants and Residents, and it’s a framework designed for social landlords to collect tenant and resident satisfaction feedback in a consistent, measurable way. Developed jointly by the CIH, NHF, TPAS and TAROE, the STAR survey is administered by HouseMark as a voluntary, self-regulatory framework to measure customer satisfaction in social housing.
The STAR survey measures and benchmarks satisfaction using standard questions and response codes. The survey includes five Core questions, a wide range of Recommended and Optional questions, and response codes to use across a selection of scoring scales.
Why is the STAR survey important to your business?
The importance of knowing your customer’s opinion
Not for profit in nature, housing organisations exist for their residents. Understanding the thoughts, feelings and opinions of your customers is critical for delivering outcomes that are considered “value for money (VFM)” results. The actions and activities of your organisation must be aligned with the values of your residents to achieve true VFM.
Tailoring services to meet the needs of your customers is only successfully achieved by listening to your residents. By learning about your customers, you are investing in activities that drives customer satisfaction – but you also need to measure these activities to ensure they are worthwhile and effective.
The wider impact of STAR
STAR is effective for more than measuring performance. Your customers are your greatest advocates, telling friends and family about their experiences with your organisation. Today, it’s important for most landlords to build and sell homes, so there’s a consumer element and a commercial level of reputation. The customer voice is important, therefore, from a development standpoint.
And, in terms of your staff, of course the biggest reason that most people get into housing is a desire to help people, and your colleagues want to deliver the service which customers expect from you. The way to demonstrate this is through consistently measuring and monitoring satisfaction results.
“What we are seeing is that there has been a real drive to complete STAR surveys now, benchmarking early, to learn and improve services for residents.”
Kate Roberts, Associate Director, IFF Research
Guiding your strategic course
Taking a snapshot of your residents’ opinions allows you to understand whether or not your services are valued by customers, and if your strategic direction is going to deliver satisfactory results or miss the mark entirely. Having point-in-time results from a periodic STAR survey allows you to measure your performance against KPIs and other milestones and take corrective action if needed.
Future proofing your services
STAR surveys can also help you prepare for contingencies. For example, with the Covid-19 pandemic, if a similar-type event happens again in future, you can quickly understand what you can do better. This could be in terms of communications, service delivery, ways of working, backlog management and redirection of resources. An organisation can prove that a specific response to an issue affected satisfaction positively or negatively and act quickly when issues arise. Your plans, objectives and strategies will change – that’s inevitable. Over time, it’s helpful to understand your performance in the past and the present, so you can measure the impact and prepare for changes in the future.
Your business case: What are the benefits of baselining?
Social Housing White Paper readiness
Enhanced consumer regulation is expected with the publication of the Social Housing White Paper. You can get a head start with an early STAR survey and prioritise your target areas before the regulation comes into effect.
“You don’t have to be perfect; it’s about demonstrating clear steps to service improvements. If you are asking your customers why and how, then what you need to do next is there in front of you.”
Kate Roberts, Associate Director, IFF Research
In fact, landlords are expected to start taking steps to improve safety and engagement regardless of publication of the white paper. Fiona MacGregor, Chief Executive of the Regulator of Social Housing has urged the sector to act immediately instead of waiting for government to develop policies and new regulations, saying: “If you think there are things that you could be doing for your customers, for your tenants…just crack on and do it.”
From a financial perspective, you will hear the opinions of your residents, analyse the data, and plan for improvement whilst the 2021/22 budgets are still being drawn up. The benefit of undergoing a STAR survey now is that you will have clear cut data to tell you what your customers want and need, plus enough time to resource any changes you need to make.
Supporting your strategic aims with customer data that links to and supports the direction of your business. And when customer opinion is no longer aligned, you can use that information to adjust your course.
In development, you will depend on the voice of your customer to build and sell homes. In terms of value for money, you will be undertaking activities that support the express wishes of your residents – because you listen.
There is a drive to do right by customers – this helps underpin the culture in social housing and your overall reputation in the sector.
Conducting a STAR survey is good business – it’s good for your residents, your business and your teams. And, as in most scenarios, timing really is everything. By carrying out your STAR survey now, rather than later, you get additional business benefits of getting in front of regulatory change, setting up impactful budgets, and future-proofing your services in an uncertain climate full of risk. Your organisations’ STAR survey is an investment that pays back – plus dividends.
For a STAR survey quotation, or advice on preparing for the Social Housing white paper regulations, contact our Housing team.