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Watford Community Housing use Orchard Income Analytics to streamline arrears management

With more than 5000 homes in their portfolio and aspirations to add an extra 1000 homes over the next 5 years, Hertfordshire-based Watford Community Housing rely on Orchard Income Analytics to help them engage with vulnerable tenants and manage arrears more effectively.

Watford Community Housing have worked with Orchard for over 12 years, and were already using Orchard Housing as their central housing management platform, but had relied on another solution for managing income arrears. When reviewing their usage of this system, the team at Watford identified that there were limitations in their current ways of working.

More effective working patterns

Because the business intelligence platform they were using to manage arrears did not integrate with Orchard Housing, income officers were forced to spend time switching between different solutions platforms to get the data they needed to manage their caseload. Teams also struggled with the fact that their existing software platform did not update frequently enough, causing them to unnecessarily follow up with tenants who had already made rent payments.

Watford Community Housing also wanted to streamline their approach to contacting tenants, improving their ability to support vulnerable customers, particularly those who were in the process of transitioning to Universal Credit. As part of this, they were keen that any new platform should make it easier for income officers to contact tenants via a range of different contact methods, particularly SMS messaging, which at that point was only possible via a cumbersome manual process.
After exploring the options available on the market, Watford Community Housing chose to invest in Orchard Income Analytics as their new arrears management solution.

Benefits to the team

A key reason for choosing Orchard Income Analytics was its ability to integrate seamlessly with Watford Community Housing’s existing Orchard Housing Management System. With no need to switch between systems to gather information or update records, income officers were able to manage their caseloads more effectively. Daily data updates also meant income officers were working with the latest revenue data, saving them from inadvertently chasing payments which had already been made.

“Income Analytics gives us a current list of tenants we need to look at, and ranks them with a risk rating so we know which are the highest value cases… in our previous solution we didn’t have daily processing so the cases our income officers were looking at were often out of date. With Orchard we get daily updates so time is not being wasted on cases where payment has already been made.” – Mike McDonald, Income and Tenancy Support Manager at Watford Community Housing

Improved communications

Income Analytics also gave Watford Community Housing the ability to communicate more easily with tenants, reducing the time it took to get in contact with high risk cases. By allowing officers to easily communicate with tenants via text message, the team noticed significant improvements in engagement:

“We’ve found tenants are quick to respond to a text message, and this seems to be their preferred method of receiving communications. This saves us money compared to the cost of sending a letter, and reduces the time to engage with a tenant and resolve any issues they may be facing. This allows income officers to work through cases more quickly.” – Mike McDonald, Income and Tenancy Support Manager at Watford Community Housing

Simple to use

Income Analytics’ sophisticated predictive analytics made it easy to prioritise the highest impact cases, while the customisable case management options allowed Watford Community Housing’s team to quickly adapt the software to fit their working processes. In particular, Watford Community Housing’s incomes team were impressed with how easy and intuitive the Income Analytics interface was to use. Initially setting aside two days for training, the team were surprised to find that they didn’t need anywhere near as much time as they’d expected to get to grips with the new system.

“It was very quick for us to start using Income Analytics. Training only took half a day, so as a busy team we were amazed at how quickly we could start using the program.” – Romana Lawson, Senior Income Officer

Single view of our customers with Orchard

Watford Community Housing’s move to Income Analytics is just one step towards their goal of achieving a single view of the customer, with all activities integrated around a single source of data. As part of that they’re continuing to work in partnership with Orchard to understand the potential for higher levels of integration across their software packages.

“I would recommend that housing associations approach Orchard – they’re taking a different approach to how they’re delivering their services. There’s good collaboration, and we feel as an organisation that we can steer towards what we need as a housing association rather than having a software provider choose that for us.” – Barry Wilson, Chief Technology Officer at Watford Community Housing

For us, Orchard is a key partner and I think the relationship is a strong one. We have a shared vision around where we need to get to as a business, which corresponds with where Orchard and their product development is going.

Ben Johnson, Group Director of Operations

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