As February comes to an end, the social housing sector braces itself for the final month of the financial year, and implementing the new tenant satisfaction measures (TSMs) feels more real than ever before.
Over the last 12 months we’ve been busy here at IFF helping clients prepare for this new regulatory requirement. Through various consultations, speaking engagements and work with many clients who’ve already started collecting the TSMs, we wanted to share some of what we’ve learned along the way.
Is it too late to carry out a baseline survey?
Many of the housing providers we work with have been using the period in the run up to April to conduct a baseline survey to give themselves and indication of what they can expect from their TSM results and identify areas to focus improvement. But, as February gives way to March, is it now too late to do so? Not necessarily. There’s no reason why you can’t carry out a baseline survey that extends past April 2023, as long as you conduct a separate, compliant survey later within the period before April 2024.
If we don’t need to report results, should we still ask the questions?
If you have fewer than 1,000 Low Cost Home Ownership (LCHO) customers, you don’t have to report survey results on this customer group. And other customers like leaseholders are also excluded from the Regulator’s reporting requirements. Does this mean that these customers must be left out of the survey? Well, not quite. Whilst there’s no regulatory requirement to survey these groups, ideally you should still provide all customers with an opportunity to provide their feedback to you (you just wouldn’t include data from these customer groups in your reporting to the Regulator).
How big does my survey need to be?
The Regulator has specified a level of statistical accuracy they require from each housing provider’s survey – these margins of error range from +/- 5% to +/- 2%, dependent on stock size, with more stringent requirements for providers with more stock. Don’t forget that the requirements treat LCRA and LCHO stock separately – so your required level of statistical accuracy could be +/- 3% for your LCRA sample and +/- 5% for LCHO.
What does that mean in practice? To achieve a narrower margin of error, you need a larger sample size (number of completed TSM surveys) relative to the size of your population (number of households). Despite the fact smaller providers are required to meet a less stringent margin of error, they will typically need to survey a greater proportion of their households to achieve this: as I’m sure you can imagine, speaking to 10 customers out of 100 will not be as accurate as speaking to 100 customers out of 1,000. For many smaller providers (and larger providers with a small amount of LCHO stock), the best you will be able to do is take a ‘census’ approach, contacting all your customers and aiming to maximise the response rate.
Using the TSMs to inform service improvement
When we speak to our clients, we often hear, “we know that we need to ask the TSMs, but how do we actually use the survey results to improve services?”. This is a question that I love to hear because we’ve been working closely with a number of clients on this recently and we can already see increases in customer satisfaction as a result of service improvements.
There are so many innovative ways to identify and implement improvements within your organisation, but the first step is to understand what your survey results are telling you. This is possible through benchmarking, key driver analysis, and other analysis and methods. You can bring these insights alive when you share them with your staff and customers to show customers that you are actively listening and acting on what they are telling you. We have found this really successful in running workshops with our clients where we brought staff together from across the business to identify priority areas and reflect on possible solutions. Following these discussions, recording and assigning an owner can really help to cultivate accountability to drive those actions forward.
In conclusion, we’ve all learned so much about preparing for the TSMs this year, from sampling and survey design, to utilising the results to have a direct impact on services that your customers use. Ultimately, we must remember why we’re conducting this exercise and the importance of listening to and supporting the customers we’re all committed to serve.
If you’re preparing to collect and report on your TSMs and are looking for guidance, get in touch with us today.