With over 4,700 gas boilers to service every year, carrying out gas safety checks is an important part of keeping tenants safe in their homes.
In 2016 the gas servicing access rate stood at only 60% and coupled with a cost of £60,000 being spent on making multiple unsuccessful visits to tenants’ homes, it was clear something drastic had to be done.
Staff from across Charter and Charter Building Maintenance came together to revamp the whole process, taking a more holistic approach to gas servicing and the way in which they were communicating with tenants.
One key change in the process was moving the administration and scheduling of gas safety checks to the Maintenance and Customer Services teams. This has enabled a better linkup of our compliance work with the rest of the business, including housing officers and tenancy support workers who have vital knowledge and understanding of our tenants’ needs and circumstances.
Richard Young, Charter’s Contracts and Compliance Manager said “The work the team have done over the past year reinforces gas servicing shouldn’t be a silo service, but done collaboratively with other departments and teams, taking into account the story behind every issue, ranging from our tenant(s) work and family commitments to deeper more complex issues such as mental health and safeguarding concerns.
By taking the time to understand why we may have access issues and recording this information, we are now able to provide a more tailored service”.
Being more aware of tenants individual circumstances has enabled Charter to better tailor appointments to suit them or involve a member of staff with whom they already have a positive trusted relationship.
This approach has led to more gas safety checks being completed at the first appointment and the identification of areas where tenants may need further support.
The way in which Charter were communicating with tenants was another factor; many tenants found the language formal, complicated and messages somewhat unclear. Charter realised they were too reliant on the letters and had not been communicating in a method that suited their tenant(s) needs.
The whole notification process has been revamped; letters are clearer and easier to understand, and are sent out in brightly coloured branded envelopes emblazoned ‘We need to check your gas is safe’ or ‘Your gas safety check is needed’. Both letters and envelopes carry through the gas safety icon, making it clear what the communication represents. This forms part of a ‘nudge’ theory called ‘salience’. The idea being people are more likely to respond to communications that are noticeable, simple and accessible.
Charter have also improved the ways in which customers can communicate by introducing a dedicated gas safety email and a text option.
Richard continued: “This approach is designed to not only improve access rates, but to continue to improve our compliance approach and engagement with our tenants.
The service we are now providing is designed to suit the needs of our customers and in-turn means we have the reassurance of knowing our tenants are safe in their homes and their homes are compliant.
Through a better understanding of our customers and an ability to provide a more appropriate service, the new approach has meant we are no longer taking tenants to court for ‘no access’. This avoids financial and emotional stress for tenants and has saved Charter £32,000 in court costs, as well as staff time.
In 2018 our access rate has increased to 76%, with 710 more homes receiving their gas safety check on their first appointment and a further saving of £22,720 made.
It has been a challenging but worthwhile journey, and I’m very proud of the hard work by everybody involved, we were particularly delighted to recently hear we have been shortlisted in the AGSM National Gas Safety Awards in the Social Housing Compliance Initiative category, which will take place on Wednesday 25th April”.
Article added: 5th April 2018