Awareness of competition and choice between providers – stimulated by UK government promises to introduce social landlord league tables – are leading to social housing raising its game to function more like its private sector counterparts. As a result, tenants expect enhanced relationships with their landlords, including real-time feedback and multi-channel communication. Tom Neely, our Housing Practice Lead explains the importance of the right leadership to ensure housing providers keep up with demand.
Social housing providers must invest in technology in order to meet changing expectations – from utilising big data for a better understanding of customer needs, to following advice in latest reports and using mobile to access hard-to-reach tenants. However, in a sector where residents are three times more likely than their private-sector counterparts to experience a problem accessing services, it is crucial that over-reliance on digital doesn’t lead to tenants’ voices being lost. For providers looking to navigate the changing landscape, the right leadership is the key.
Leading from the heart – collaboration, empathy and emotional intelligence
As social housing is increasingly held to commercial standards, the logical next step is looking beyond traditional channels when searching for talent. This has seen a number of providers looking outside the social housing sector, harnessing the customer-centricity of industries such as retail, FMCG, hospitality and telecoms. This new talent pool comes equipped with fresh thinking and skills.
Adaptive leadership takes precedence over the command and control approach – with natural empathy, emotional intelligence and an instinct for collaboration fundamental to success. Digitisation results in a rapid pace of change, with workers, for the first time in history, having to be re-skilled multiple times throughout their career. To keep meaningful customer relationships front-and-centre in this climate, leaders need to be able to constantly engage and motivate their workforce. This requires self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and motivational skills. Leaders with these qualities will be able to ignite requisite loyalty and trust from their teams – resulting in a commitment to exceed expectations, providing the catalyst for improved customer-supplier relationships.
Naturally empathetic leaders foster a collaborative culture where excellent customer experience is seen as the responsibility of everyone involved, not just the employees in customer service. Done well, this will see engagement improve across the organisation. Prioritisation of tenants’ voices and living standards must come from the top. When emotional intelligence plays a major role in how customers are viewed and treated at board and executive level, this has a knock-on effect on landlord and tenant relationships further down the line. As we see an emerging millennial workforce driven by a purpose-led approach, in social housing this mentality directly fuels success. Social housing leaders need to attract talent with a value-driven mindset in order to drive a customer service revolution.