To underpin long-term sustainability, support growth and build resilience against an increasingly difficult operating environment, Thrive Homes has implemented a game-changing transformation of their service model in partnership with Campbell Tickell.
The case for change started with a desire to create a service model that engenders self-reliance, improves services and reduces costs. And a model which explores what could be learned from commercial service provision. In defining the case for change the Thrive Board and Executive recognised that only a full system change would deliver the necessary scale of transformation within the timescale required.
The target service model is of low-cost housing provision where rental income provides great value via low-touch digital access for the majority of customer interactions, with staff resources increasingly focused on carefully targeted sustainment and intervention offers.
A reset in the relationship with customers is required to create new mutual expectations and address the negative behaviours that drive-up costs. This reset requires fresh thinking about how the relationship with customers is framed with extensive changes to what customers see and experience as part of a demand reduction strategy. It is equally important to consider organisational design and cultural and behavioural change.
Whilst this scale and interdependency of the changes obviously represented a high degree of risk to the organisation, there was a recognition that only by building a new service model from the ground up could the greatest benefits for customers and Thrive be realised.
From a Blueprint prepared by CT consultants working within the organisation, and endorsed by the Thrive Board in July 2016, a programme of transformation is already realising the vision:
The Thrive Deal: A concise set of Offer and Ask statements replace layers of policy, handbooks and leaflets, and are explicit in setting out the meaning of tenancy terms and conditions, whist also straightforwardly demonstrating compliance with consumer standards. These Offer and Ask statements redress the balance of tenant responsibilities and demand on the service, by, for example, making clear that tenants must resolve low-level ASB issues such as noise nuisance, and by clarifying the range of repairs that are the responsibility of the customer.
A set of charges are applied for delivering services that fall outside the core offer or are the tenant’s responsibility and for recovering the costs of rectification work. A straightforward customer journey mapping approach, led by staff, translates the Offer and Ask statements into new business processes.
Going Digital: Improving on a previous low-level digital presence, customers can book and manage appointments directly for a range of Easyfix repairs (potentially 40% of demand) through the myThrive App. New customer sign-up will be managed through a bespoke self-service portal, with an application gateway that requires nominees to submit proof of identity and affordability, and an induction gateway that ensures they are fully aware of their responsibilities as tenants. In this way the expectations of new customers are actively shaped beginning with the first point of contact. Scheduling the work of all field teams through the mobile working platform, combined with multiskilling (inspections) will enable the deployment of a flexible and efficient ’call-off’ style delivery model. Further improvements to service and reductions in cost-to-serve are planned as our model matures.
Home Plan: puts the customer centre stage in the management of their home. From undertaking simple repairs to understanding what constitutes careless damage, a refreshed Home Standard manages the expectations of new customers. Using photographic inventory management, adopted from the private sector, and being piloted with new customers, over a period all customers will be on a rolling four-year cycle of inspections (aligning with an 8-year fixed-term tenancy cycle for new customers). This evidence-based approach will inform both component renewal decisions and tenancy interventions and will shape customer expectations of the service.
Organisational Design: A bold and simplified staffing structure was required to best support the profound changes in service delivery mechanisms.
This simpler model maximises empowerment at all levels and supports the new approach to customer journeys. A programme of cultural change supports adaptation to new ways of working and responds to new levels of expectation. Roles are more generic, generating savings from the greater flexibility this provides.
Thrive has already realised an 18% reduction in headcount and year on year savings of £247k from the new model and will deliver further savings arising from operational efficiencies and reducing demand. The approach is scalable and so responds well to growth opportunities.
Measuring what Matters: Thrive has radically simplified the way it measures its effectiveness and customer contentment, gone are the how quickly did we do it type measures, that create perverse incentives and restrict customer choice, replaced with measuring a choose the time that suites you and we will get the job done approach. In measuring contentment, customers are simply asked “was the service you received – good or not good enough?”
Realisation and Outcomes: The Thrive Deal business case defines a target operational model with associated return on investment and performance outcomes. Thrive will fully realise this vision over the next three years and a Value Realisation Framework ensures the Board can track outcomes.
By transforming in totality its offer to customers and what it asks in return, its delivery model and organisational design, Thrive Homes is now positioned to sustain itself, grow quickly, and meet the ongoing challenges of the operating environment. Whilst the outcomes are tailored to Thrive Homes, the Blueprint for this approach is transferable and could work for others.
What lessons did we learn along the way? The importance of:
Authors: Elspeth Mackenzie, Chief Executive, Thrive Homes; Alistair Sharpe-Neal, Associate, Campbell Tickell and Jon Slade, Senior Consultant, Campbell Tickell