Benchmarking for a brighter future
Glenn Harris MBE, Executive Director of Corporate Resources, Midland Heart recently spoke at the Housing Finance conference, here he reflects on the importance of value for money to business transformation.
About this time two years ago, we faced a challenge affecting everyone in Social Housing; a four year cycle of -1% rent cuts and the £41m impact it would have on us.
The challenge was twofold. Could we mitigate the revenue loss through cost efficiencies, whilst also at least maintaining, or improving the quality of services? This announcement undoubtedly focussed the sector.
Through a focus on core purpose - landlord services, repairs and customer interface we hit the savings target, but have also delivered tangible and sustainable improvements to pretty much every operational KPI.
A key factor in our success has been benchmarking, and having the ability to compare our performance to similar or like-minded RP’s. This has been critical in identifying areas for improvement, learning from other providers and delivering the most efficient service to our customers.
Whilst repairs were a major component, we have also focussed on lettings, voids, catering in our retirement and extra care services and the use of temporary staff.
We also took a strategic decision to exit a number of services that we did not feel we had the scale or expertise to develop and improve in the way we wanted to. A number of these services did require a subsidy from the core social housing side of the business to operate. Our board were clear; in that long-term significant subsidisation of outsourced services, that others were better placed to deliver, would not support our ambition to future-proof the business.
Having moved in to a very strong position, both in terms of a sustainable high level of service, and to a well-funded robust financial position we have a good base to move on.
As we continue on our journey, there are two areas where we will make further use of the performance improvement club. An in-depth review of our day-to-day repairs service, and developing our digital platform for customers.
The former is stable, delivering satisfaction and a timely service at levels that benchmark very well. Through a strategic review of our planned maintenance service, led by consultants, Vantage Business Solutions, we have achieved major improvements and savings; we plan to do a similar assessment on our day-to-day service to ensure our reactive repairs are as efficient as possible.
With digital platforms, we are clear that this is a very customer focused approach, which is not required in order to make efficiency savings. However, our customers remain at heart of all that we do and benchmarking is as much about making savings as it is about offering choice for our customers and improving the quality of our customer service.