Blog: Making the most of your intelligence

Adam Knight-Markiegi
Adam Knight-Markiegi

My partner is an avid Boden shopper. She likes the design of their clothes for herself and the kids. Boden know this – and they understand her. A new catalogue arrives in the post seemingly every week. She also receives a constant stream of emails. Boden’s real trick is understanding what level of discount will entice her to shop. A miserly 10 per cent won’t do it. But offer closer to 20 per cent (especially on kids’ clothes) and she’s hooked, even if she ends up buying more and un-discounted goods into the bargain.

Particularly with the rise of the internet, just as the retail sector has had to adapt to the way we now shop, housing organisations also need to understand their customers and adapt their services and the ways in which they communicate to meet the changing expectations of those customers. That’s where tenant insight comes in.

Tenant insight – customer insight in housing – is about using information to really understand your tenants, so you can tailor and improve services. It’s about getting real benefits by combining three types of data:

  1. demographics (what you know about who your customers are)
  2. behaviours (what your customers do and don’t do)
  3. perceptions (what your customers think about you and their wider aspirations).
  4. Recently, HouseMark has been running a discovery project on tenant insight, working with 11 housing associations and councils across England and Wales.

    North Wales Housing is one of them. They want to use insight to boost use of their online portal and they are using customer segmentation to help achieve this. This is about grouping customers into distinct sets, to tailor the message and approach to each one.

    As part of this exercise, they have identified two key segments within their customer base. Tenants aged 25–44 years generally have high levels of internet access and are confident online, including through social media. They make up 38 per cent of North Wales Housing’s customers but account for 51 per cent of existing portal users. They’re likely to have time pressures due to work and young families. A key message to get across to this group is how easy it is to report a repair online – for instance, from a smartphone during their lunchbreak or in the evening, once kids are in bed. North Wales Housing can use social media to get this message across to that specific segment of their customer base.

    Conversely, tenants aged 75+ years old are least likely to be online and most are likely to live in sheltered or extra care housing. They make up 10 per cent of tenants but just 4 per cent of existing portal users. The portal’s key benefit for this group is being able to see rent statements in large print, something that can’t be done now with automatically printed statements. But to get more tenants from this segment to use the online portal, North Wales Housing staff plan to provide support to help people get online. This can include in-house workshops or individual face-to-face chats. There is also an opportunity to show these tenants the wider benefits of going online, for instance to stay in email contact with family or to share photos with relatives abroad. From there, tenants can move on to understanding the benefits of using North Wales Housing’s online portal to get easier access to services.

    Just like Boden then, housing organisations need to understand their customers from the data they already hold and to use this insight to tailor their services accordingly. This will help ensure they are communicating the right message, targeted at the right people and in a way that best suits them. Ultimately, by helping tenants to make the best use of the services landlords have to offer, it should help to improve tenant satisfaction levels as well.

    Adam Knight-Markiegi is commercial knowledge manager at HouseMark and will be speaking at an SFHA Tenant insight event at the COSLA Conference Centre in Edinburgh on 10th May.

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