Newydd manages around 3000 properties across mid and south Wales. While they’d previously introduced a digital self-service platform, uptake from tenants was very low.
Some internal teams believed this indicated a lack of interest, however feedback from tenants showed increasing demand for a wider range of communication options, with millennial tenants often uncomfortable using the telephone and some tenants with disabilities physically unable to do so.
Aware that changing tenant preferences and an increasing industry shift towards digital meant they were at risk of being left behind, Newydd began a review of their IT platforms. Having worked with Orchard for 20 years, they quickly identified an opportunity to introduce their latest Digital Self Service platform to replace their existing, outdated version.
As well as providing an improved experience and easier communication to their clients, Newydd saw the potential for Orchard’s Digital Self Service platform to streamline their internal operations too. With objectives to offer affordable housing as well as excellent services, a key priority was ensuring that internal teams could operate as efficiently as possible. By reducing pressure on their customer services team by allowing tenants to self-serve for simple queries, Newydd hoped to reduce costs and help keep rents low.
“I think it’s the way forward. we have to acknowledge that customers want to contact us in different ways. We have to move with the times, and digital self-service is in demand. It’s surpassed what we thought the appetite was. It’s definitely worth doing and there’s a big benefit to the organisation as well as to tenants. “ Eleanor Chard, Head of Customer Services at Newydd Housing Association.
With Orchard’s support, Newydd’s IT team installed the system and conducted an internal awareness campaign alongside training to ensure that employees in every area of the business were aware of the new Digital Self Service platform and what it could offer. By ensuring that every team – whether maintenance, housing or community regeneration – understood the platform and its benefits, they helped build advocacy and ensure that all tenant-facing staff were able to take part in promoting the new app.
To maximise uptake amongst their tenant base, Newydd ran an extensive awareness campaign combining digital activity via a mailout to tenants, email campaigns, blogs, a podcast and social media with in-person training and live demo sessions to spark interest in the new platform. This was integrated with their community regeneration work – tenants who were not confident using digital services were offered one-to-one training as well devices on loan or for purchase through recycling schemes, ensuring they had everything they needed to take advantage of the features that would be most relevant to them.
Newydd’s customer services team were also given the ability to add tenants to My Newydd in real-time when they called in with a query which could be resolved using the platform in future, referring them for further training and support where necessary.
After the launch of the My Newydd app, Newydd set a target of 1000 signups between March and December 2019. This target was achieved in just five months, meaning over a third of tenants were registered to use the new service.
The self-service platform generated strong engagement levels with over 2500 interactions, with repair reports, anti-social behaviour reports and messages to the team amongst the most popular features. Today, 28% of interactions by tenants are now conducted via the app. This has had a noticeable effect on the customer services team, who with less time spent managing simple requests are now able to spend more time on complex queries from tenants who need in-depth support.
During the process of implementing Orchard Digital Self Service, Newydd prioritised tenant involvement to ensure that the finished product met the needs of its users. By arranging for a group of tenants to test the new system and provide their thoughts and suggestions, the Newydd team were able to get vital early feedback on their planned approach.
Tenant feedback after the launch was also very positive – 75% rated the app “very easy to use”, and of tenants who’d tried it, only 22% said that they’d prefer to communicate with Newydd by telephone in future. The project also led to Newydd winning a Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) Cymru award for Digital Services.
“I’d tell any Newydd tenant to sign up to the app. It’s easy to use, it’s friendly, you’ll find the information you need ever so quickly, and it will make your life easier as a tenant.” – Newydd Tenant.
As an Orchard partner for over 20 years, Newydd has seen Orchard’s software suite develop and expand over the years, and sees potential to introduce even more new features in the future.
Michael Morgan, IT Application Engineer at Newydd, said:
“We are currently looking at the orchard portfolio products to see where there’s natural fit for our IT strategy for the future. We feel that Orchard could be the one-stop shop for all our IT housing management needs.”
Digital services are changing rapidly and I think an effective partnership with a software/IT provider is really essential because we can share future challenges, worries about the future and share ideas and solutions, and that means future products become stronger.