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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Rethinking the business case for tenant involvement


Other customer-orientated industries devote large chunks of their turnover to trying to get customers to talk to them - so why doesn't the social housing sector? Jon Warnock, independent advisor, guest blogs for CIH.

Image of house drawn in sand Anyone seen the TV programme ‘Three in a Bed’? The basic premise is that B&B guests pay only what they feel their stay is worth. Imagine if our tenants could do the same. Maybe then listening to their views and feedback would be a top business priority.

But the reality isn’t that much different. Many of our tenants are facing huge demands on their budgets and are having to make spending decisions which impact on their rent. The issue is that as a sector we haven’t realised that tenant involvement can be an influencing factor.

We know that understanding customer needs and desires is an abiding principle of good service delivery. We realise that involving tenants in co-creating products and services and utilising their expertise as customers in performance management and quality assurance can have a massively positive influence on their business's efficiency and effectiveness.

We also, mostly, appreciate that tenants in social housing display a huge propensity (compared to almost every other sector you can think of) to willingly be engaged with and even get directly involved. Yet while other customer orientated industries devote large proportions of their turnover to trying to get their customers to talk to them, we in comparison, tend to spend peanuts - and then complain about the results.

So why are we devoting less resources to involving our customers when everyone else is spending more? Why is the gap between the resources going into income management and the resources going into tenant involvement getting wider? Well, this is clearly about priorities and what things are considered key business drivers. In the retail sector, the link between engaging with customers and sales is clear in terms of offering products that people want to buy and creating brand loyalty.

In social housing, we just don’t seem to have made the same connection. But behavioural economics tells us that engagement with customers creates a positive emotional connection and that the ensuing loyalty influences how people spend their money - so when our tenants are faced with difficult spending decisions they might prioritise their rent if they had an emotional connection with us. Maybe if we devoted more time and resources to tenant involvement, we would need to spend less on tenancy enforcement.

Jon Warnock
Independent advisor and critical friend

Get involved

  • Our latest working together project gives us an opportunity to shape the housing sector together and establish a clear and credible business case for involvement with a focus on evidence, impact, productive partnerships and effective resource management. Find out more

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