In light of COVID-19 and ensuing restrictions, housing providers have been more reliant on communication than ever before as a way to monitor and maintain their stock. Therefore, establishing strong lines of communication is key. A lapse in communication can lead to financial difficulties for housing providers. If a housing provider cannot effectively reach a tenant, they are more at risk of litigation or costly repair situations — these are issues that could span the length of a tenancy and cause continual problems for both provider and tenant alike.
An engaged tenant is far more likely to report maintenance issues before they can spiral into a disrepair claim, engaged residents are also much more likely to be present for property visits reducing the likelihood of no-access appointments. This is why it is important for providers to make sure that their communications are not only being received but that they are being read and understood by residents.
However, it is one thing to send out communications but how can providers ensure that their tenants are actually engaging with the information?
One of the main reasons housing providers have difficulty contacting their residents is that they are reliant on ineffective mediums. For example, many providers rely on physical communications such as letters which are easily misplaced, lost, or go overlooked by residents. The issue with physical communications is that while you can track whether they have been delivered or not, often at added cost, you cannot trace their engagement. The Data and Marketing Association found that only 20.8% of people opened a piece of mail addressed to them within 28 days which doesn’t bode well for time sensitive information.
Another reason housing providers may have trouble contacting their residents is that they may not be reaching the right person. This flaw with physical communication comes in many different forms, for example, a phone call to a resident whose number no longer exists or a letter to a resident’s home which is never opened and instead simply thrown away. The financial cost as well as the time and effort needed to chase up these residents can lead to difficulties for housing providers. When a message isn’t received, it means that residents may be left unaware of important events such as maintenance visits. This can lead to an increased rate of no-access visits which risks putting the property in violation of government policy if important issues cannot be addressed within the necessary timeframe.
However, the limitations of physical communications, mean that it is impossible for providers to know whether or not a resident has read through and understood the information. This is why most providers are looking to digital communications as a cost-effective alternative to physical communications.
Digital communications give providers greater insight into whether or not residents are engaging with the information sent. Digitised communication methods also have the benefit of being much more traceable than their physical counterparts. For example, technologies such as Switchee’s Smart Thermostat allow housing providers to see when the communication has been received and read, giving providers a greater understanding of resident engagement levels. Switchee’s Smart Thermostat also functions as a two-way communication, meaning that residents can respond to information displayed on their smart screen. This allows providers to gauge whether their methods are effective or not without any additional costs.
In moving to digital communications, providers can easily test different send times (i.e., morning versus afternoon) and dates (weekdays versus weekends) and discover which is the best time to send information out to their tenants. With a bit of trial and error, providers can easily determine how best to keep their residents engaged. If a communication still remains unread, providers can easily resend it without incurring the same costs that they would with a letter. in resending digital communications residents were found to be 54.7% more likely to engage with the existing information which meant important information such as scheduled property visits is far more likely to be received and understood, reducing the likelihood of no-access visits. This removes the additional cost of rescheduling and allows providers to ensure that their properties remain compliant with current government policy.