Shaping our services
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Get in touch with our friendly Customer Engagement team to find out the benefits of getting involved.
Damp and mould scrutiny: the results
We started our investigation into our damp and mould service in June 2023.
We wanted to find out what customers like and dislike about how we communicate and advertise the service, deliver the service, and how current technology is used by customers.
We have now published our full scrutiny report [pdf, 214KB] .
Damp and mould scrutiny at a glance:
- 604 customers gave feedback on their experience
- 14 recommendations were made to improve the service – 9 were accepted and 5 partly accepted.
|Actions from scrutiny||Date|
|Review the content of the damp and mould leaflet to ensure the financial information is more prominent and covers all our offers.||November 2023|
|Review Sovereign website to ensure damp and mould information is easy to access.||December 2023|
|Develop an action plan, setting out how we will communicate information to customers throughout the year.||December 2023|
|Test moving customers over to Property Specialist Team (Triage 2) for Damp and Mould where more expertise is required or escalation.||December 2023|
|Review pilot of new approach with diagnostics and triage and roll-out to all front-line Contact Centre advisors if successful.||December 2023|
|Review approach to compensation and financial support.||December 2023|
|Explore how we can text or email customers a link to our website or post a leaflet when they first report damp and mould.||December 2023|
|Identify the best channel(s) to receive damp and mould photos through.||December 2023|
|Sensor data to be made available to colleagues.||December 2023|
|Increase the use of automation to triage sensor data.||December 2023|
|Work with suppliers and digital partners to increase the use of digital messaging triggered by sensor data.||December 2023|
|Develop a communication plan that includes real life case studies and information and advice from residents.||January 2024|
|Develop a machine learning model to predict which homes may be susceptible to damp and mould.||August 2024|
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com.
Interested in being a scrutineer for our next scrutiny? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 5000 926 and ask for the Customer Engagement team.
Scrutiny Coordination Group
We think the best people to look into our services and suggest improvements are the people who live in our homes. We call this process ‘Scrutiny’ and have set up a group of residents called the Scrutiny Coordination Group.
- Paula Grebot (Chair)
- Denise Cox
- Danny Lynch
- Cailin Harris
- Ebony Taylorson
- Oliver Witheridge
- Angie Chillingworth
The group decides which service areas to review and then supports other volunteer residents to carry out the scrutiny work.
The volunteers investigate what’s going well with the service and what needs to be improved and make recommendations.
We’re always looking for volunteers to help improve our services. It can involve interviewing managers, discussing our performance figures and even going out on site with our Repairs Team.
Find out about previous service investigations
Our team of scrutineers will be looking at our approach to decanting (moving out) customers from their homes when planned or emergency work needs to be done. They will consider the choices customers are given and the support offered, then make recommendations for improvement to the service as needed.
If you have been through our decanting process and would like to feedback on your experience please get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
Residents completed their review of Sovereign’s social media in October, November and December of last year. Their report was submitted to the SCG in mid-February.
- Social media customers receive the same service as phone or email customers, though there are differences in initial contact response times
- The vast majority of messages sent by customers to Sovereign on social media are on Facebook
- Public messages are a only small proportion of total social media contact: 93% of messages received by Sovereign from customers are private messages
- Facebook’s rules mean Sovereign is unable to initiate a private conversation. They also need to ensure customers’ privacy. This is why they prompt customers to ‘send a private message’
- Social media contact is often driven by customer dissatisfaction. Complaints are often first reported on social media
- Sovereign is considering how it manages the staffing resource it devotes to social media. ‘Ownership’ is currently split across two directorates
The SCG has made recommendations to Sovereign about the service, and we’re currently working to agree how they’ll be implemented. We’ll update this section further when we have more details.
This scrutiny project was carried out completely remotely, due to the pandemic. After it was completed in January 2021, the Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG) worked with senior managers at Sovereign to create a set of recommendations to develop the service, including:
- Doing a service review, taking into account the scrutiny findings, to create a service that’s more focused on outcomes, with customers at the heart.
- Developing a personalised, tailored approach to dealing with ASB that’s consistent across Sovereign.
- More effective case management, through being clear about what action Sovereign’s taking and better communication with customers.
- Providing more information and support around what actions customers can take themselves.
The ASB section of MySovereign has also been revamped to include lots more information about specific issues.
What do you think of the new MySovereign ASB pages?
Let us know by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our employees are receiving refresher training on ASB topics including case management.
The full service review has a target completion date of September 2021. It includes a specific project focussed on dealing with noise nuisance, which is difficult to resolve, but is the largest category of undesirable behaviour reported to us.
This scrutiny was completed between January and March 2021, and the report was presented to the Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG) in mid-April.
- Information on the grants could be more visible across Sovereign’s websites and social media
- The application process makes sense and compares well to other organisations that give out community funding
- There was overwhelmingly positive feedback about the Community Development Officers who support organisations working in Sovereign’s communities
- Sovereign could do more to communicate the great work that happens in our communities as a result of the funding
The Scrutiny Coordination Group made a number of recommendations centred around making our work in this area more visible.
Scrutineers reported their preliminary findings while the scrutiny work was still taking place, and the Communities team responded immediately by updating MySovereign to include better information on the community funding that Sovereign can grant. You can find that information here.
What do you think of the new MySovereign Local Community Grants & Funding page?
Let us know by emailing email@example.com.
The Communities Team has also created an annual review of their work, which they hope will inspire more groups to start projects in local Sovereign communities and apply to Sovereign for funding. You can read the report here.
For their first service investigation of 2020, the Scrutiny Coordination Group (SCG) decided to look into our programme for upgrading the kitchens, bathrooms and windows in our residents’ homes.
Every year we replace hundreds of kitchens, bathrooms and windows to ensure are homes are great places to live. But sometimes our residents don’t want the upgrade and the Group wanted to find out why. They also investigated what the consequences might be for Sovereign when our residents don’t want us to improve their home.
Ten volunteer scrutineers took part in the project which was led by a resident member of the SCG. The scrutineers interviewed senior staff and analysed Sovereign’s data, but their planned visits to see newly installed kitchens, bathrooms and windows had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undeterred, the scrutineers turned to technology, using conference calling to complete the project from home.
- Resident scrutineers completed over 110 hours of volunteering
- Interviewed 20 members of our Property Maintenance and Asset Management teams
- Analysed transcripts of phone interviews with customers who had refused a new kitchen, bathroom or windows to get the detail on why they said no
- Looked into how we communicate with customers when they are due a new kitchen, bathroom or windows
Key recommendations include
- Developing an effective way of capturing the customer experience of receiving an upgrade
- Recording more detail about why our residents sometimes refuse an upgrade and using this information to develop our service so more residents say yes
- Review the way we communicate with customers about kitchen, bathroom and windows upgrades
The SCG's latest scrutiny exercise was into our empty homes and the processes around getting these ready for someone to move into. The group wanted to make sure that our approach was consistent across all areas and the review was also a chance to look at the standards we've set for this work.
A home can be empty because it's just been built and no-one's moved in yet or because a resident's moved out and there are safety checks or other work we need to do before someone else moves in.
Some homes may be empty while they have more major modernisation, repairs or conversion work and a few may be earmarked for demolition and redevelopment as part of a regeneration programme.
- Resident scrutineers completed over 60 hours of volunteering
- We visited more than 20 empty homes
- Recommendations include routinely collecting feedback from new residents on the condition of their home when they moved in, and their experience of the lettings process
- Scrutineers also recommended that we encourage greater consistency between our teams and external contractors
- They also recommended that, every three months, we review the effectiveness of the recording database that our trades use (called 'Spot it, tag it, log it')
We want to make it as easy as possible for you to tell us when you feel something’s gone wrong.
You can read more about making a complaint, including our complaints policy and what happens after a complaint is logged.
If you’re not happy with a service we’ve provided, please get in touch.Make a complaint
- Since this scrutiny was carried out we've seen some big improvements. By the end of December 2019, the average time to re-let a home had reduced from just over 22 days to just over 11 days.
- Dedicated lettings officers are enabling us to relet homes faster and we're also recruiting new homes advisors to help.
- We've developed action plans for several sites where homes are generally taking longer to let. These include using alternative advertising methods (such as Zoopla and Gumtree) to reach people in housing need.
- We're continuing talks with several councils about reducing how long it takes to nominate new residents. As these happen regularly, we can highlight any current issues.
- Before we build new homes, we’re being clearer about the sorts of home we know people need in that area. We push back or ask for more evidence of bids for other homes if we feel that demand may be low, especially in some of our more rural areas.
- We're also focusing on making sure residents are ready for a tenancy and able to afford it. For example, piloting employment and training support to a small number of people on the housing register, who aren't yet residents.
- The pre-tenancy assessment lets us understand more about someone's financial circumstances so that we can support them, if they need it, on how to manage their regular payments.
- We’re also working with our Income team to find the best time in the month for new residents to sign up if they’re on Universal Credit. This can change how long they’ll have to wait for payment.
- Since April 2019 nearly 2,600 people have followed our online resident induction. This is a step-by-step guide to what they need to know and, as it’s online, they can work through it as and when it suits them.
- Resident scrutineers carried out over 100 hours of activity to complete this review.
- Recommendations included working with residents to agree a definition for repairs being completed ‘right first time’ and, with volunteer members of the SCG, we’ve now agreed what this should look like and how it can be measured.
- We've already improved how we report to managers and the Resident and Board Partnership about repairs, giving more details and new information.
- Some of what we want to do will take a bit longer as we need to upgrade some of our IT systems first, but we're working on this. When that's done we'll also be able to measure how many times someone has to contact us about the same repair - a key element of the service we're already focusing on improving.
- Longer-term, we’re developing a fully-automated way for residents to report and book repairs appointments via MySovereign.