In these trying times, how are we to get the most up to date information, without having information overload? With so many different forms of communication - webinars, blogs, tv, youtube, social media, the list goes on - which channels are the right ones to use? In communication, we are going through the alphabet, the same way that we name storms. Three months ago Brexit was the word on everyone’s mind and the focus of every conversation. Now, Covid-19 is the word we all can’t stop mentioning and quite rightly so. So once we’ve moved past the Covid-19, let’s all make the next letter we focus on D - not digital but Dialogue. Dialogue in affordable housing is often something that is thought about but that drops down the priority list when things really get dire, but it has the potential to lessen even the most brutal of blows. Is anyone actually measuring which method is the most effective, however, and indeed are there differing results for different channels?
Things to consider when communicating with residents:
- Who is the target of the message?
- What are you trying to achieve with it?
- How do you measure if it has been effective?
Who is the target of your message?
When it comes to messaging - rarely does one-size-fit-all. Some prefer one method of communication over another, some prefer formal messages and other more casual. Ultimately, it is likely that multiple formats may be needed in order to get your message across. You should be asking yourself if the information you have on your resident is up to date? This can significantly impact your ability to identify preferred methods of contact or their individual requirements.
What are you trying to achieve with it?
Before you begin to write a message to your residents - you should be asking yourself what you and your organisation are trying to achieve by sending it. This is a huge part of whether your communication will actually achieve measurable results. Consider whether the communication channel you have chosen can reach the audience in time to be helpful to a resident. Nobody wants to receive a letter about a resident meeting, for example, after it has already finished. Is it important if your message doesn’t get read or heard and what happens if you need a response - are you geared up to deal with this?
How do you measure if it has been effective?
This ultimately is dictated by what you are trying to achieve and perhaps even the cost of sending messages. Being able to measure if your dialogue with residents has been received, read and/or responded to will help you to form future strategies surrounding communication and allows you to more accurately map what work will need to be done for future communication challenges. For many housing providers - the core question when it comes to analysing messaging is how do you go about measuring efficiency without directly asking them? If the message is for an event, you have the ability to judge success by the number of attendees, for example, but not all communication is a direct call to response. There is often a fine line between keeping in touch with your residents and becoming a nuisance for them to ignore. It’s not all about business metrics - remember, there’s a customer at the other end of every communication dialogue and you have to consider the impact on them.
In the end - measuring effectiveness is only worthwhile if it is monitored to validate results. Understanding how appropriate your communication is can be a great lesson to learn - but if it has no functional change on the way you conduct those strategies in the future it has not fulfilled its purpose. Data can be key in moulding and shaping dialogue in the future - but it starts with an honest and frank discussion about your goals and your metrics.
So what’s the perfect balance?
Probably the easiest and most practical way to prevent overcommunication is to offer a ‘pause until’ or a ‘change communication method’ option. By simply asking your residents what suits them best you are likely to drastically improve engagement rates. After all, there is no One-Size-Fits-All when it comes to communication. This prevents a resident from receiving dialogue in a manner that they don’t have time to digest. A good question to ask is when did you last ask your customers to review their communication preferences?
Let’s take a step towards intelligent dialogue. We live in a world where data sources are available and using data and foresight to make positive actions is common in the commercial world. Housing providers can, based on a predetermined range of factors, have an open dialogue with their residents without them even knowing they signalled for it. For example - Switchee’s clients are currently using the Internet of Things to help identify and address any potential property issues. Through remotely monitoring the risk of Condensation, Damp & Mould in a property - an alert can be triggered to the landlord and at the same time, Switchee can be used to send a message to the property to offer guidance or even offer an appointment.
In future, we will no doubt see intelligent communication being used more and more. One thing that will not change is the need to ensure it’s being used effectively, as such when adopting any new methods or re-engineering existing ones it’s vital that we always have the purpose at the forefront of any dialogue method used and avoid communication overload.