Accelerating citizen services development

A UK social housing organisation has developed its service charges enquiries system and money support service using Optevia solution and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2015

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 29 March 2016
Accelerating citizen services development

This article first appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of OnWindows.

UK-based Town & Country Housing Group (TCHG) provides more than 9,000 homes in 22 local authorities in Kent, Sussex, ­Surrey and South London. Like all UK housing associations, TCHG must send out service charge notices twice a year, but its disparate systems made difficult to manage related resident queries.

“We would send out a letter explaining the service rate charge with a breakdown of all costs, then our call centre team would be inundated with queries,” says Jamie Barker, project manager at TCHG. “Calls would be logged on disparate and siloed ­Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which were difficult to query and also often tricky to locate. We did not have a true reflection of service demand.”

To remedy this, TCHG worked with public sector customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider Optevia to develop an in-house service charges enquiries system, which launched in July 2015. Built on Optevia’s Social Housing Essentials Software (OSHE) and ­Microsoft ­Dynamics CRM 2015, the system allows TCHG’s internal teams to quickly create bespoke service lines. TCHG designed, configured and deployed the system after just two days of training and online learning sessions with Optevia.

“We worked with various teams and designed a full end-to-end process with associated service level agreements and intelligent workflow, which ensures that any queries are routed to the right individual or department,” explains Barker. “By developing an integrated view, we were able to rationalise the existing 42 service charge items to only the ones that were relevant to improve user experience and answer customer queries more quickly.”

It’s also easier for TCHG to set internal expectations about system delivery times and new service lines. “We now have a six- to eight-week release cycle for introducing new processes and functionality within Dynamics CRM,” enthuses Barker. “We’re also better positioned to take the design requirements from our business and provide feedback on feasibility and timescales.”

TCHG also used OSHE and Dynamics CRM 2015 to develop and successfully launch a money support service to help residents consolidate their debts and establish a debt repayment programme.

“Last year we managed more than 500 money support cases and, two weeks after the new service went live, we logged 40 cases,” says Barker, adding that this figure is likely to increase due to the UK’s recent welfare reforms. “Our new money support service enables us to look at outstanding debts at the end of a repayment programme and determine whether customers need additional support from our team. Essentially, we can be much more proactive and supportive of those customers that may find themselves in financial hardship.”

In future, TCHG’s onsite project team will use OSHE to manage and extend the systems, while more complex change requests or new development lines will be carried out with the help of Optevia.

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