Coming out of COVID-19 lockdown with better ways of delivering for communities
Sovereign Housing is one of the UK’s leading housing associations, providing 58,000 quality, affordable homes in the south of England for people priced out of the housing market. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Sovereign had found new ways to keep operating services for residents – from introducing remote viewings of its properties to co-ordinating the safe and efficient handover of keys. As the lockdown began to lift, we helped Sovereign build on these changes to start implementing the new, more customer-centric operating model we had designed for the organisation before the virus struck.
- Designed new operating model to deliver better homes, communities and services for Sovereign’s residents
- Helped the COVID-19 crisis response team develop a future-focused plan in line with long-term ambitions to improve customer focus
- Turned service recovery into an opportunity to test out and scale up new and better ways of working
Putting residents at the heart of everything
Sovereign Housing is determined to put residents at the heart of everything it does – from developing more homes to building stronger communities to delivering excellent services. But the organisation’s operating model, shaped around a mix of projects and regions, was holding it back. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had been working with this leading housing association to develop a new customer-centric operating model. This was key to creating a better experience for residents.
Our analysis showed that a more joined-up approach across the organisation could help with everything from getting Sovereign involved in housing development bids earlier (and therefore able to influence the quality of new homes) to ensuring Sovereign builds the right-sized homes in the locations where people want them. Principles underpinning the new model were aligned to our Customer 4.0 thinking, where empowered and outcome-focused customers expect brands to fit into their own universe. These included offering residents a single point of contact for accessing services, segmenting customers to provide tailored services for different groups, and making homes built by Sovereign more sustainable.
We helped Sovereign apply these principles by building on the new operating model design earlier in the year. This kept an eye to the future as the organisation moved from the immediate challenges of COVID-19 crisis management into recovery mode and back to full operations.
Finding opportunity in crisis
In the early stages of the pandemic, we enabled the Sovereign crisis response team to think through different options for operating during lockdown and identify those with the best potential to act as a bridge to the future operating model. We observed team meetings and provided an objective voice, drawing on our insight into Sovereign’s operations to support decision making.
As the organisation moved into recovery mode, we advised on plans to restart operations. We identified ‘lighthouse projects’ where quick wins could help establish new ways of working – for example, improving data capture to triage a back-log of 55,000 maintenance jobs that had built up over the lockdown. And we encouraged an agile ‘test and learn’ approach, trialling and refining new ways of working on the ground then scaling fast once they had been proven. For example, new processes for carrying out maintenance work with social distancing in place were trialled with customer groups that felt comfortable with having someone enter their home. Once perfected, the new processes were rolled out to other, more vulnerable groups.
Capturing data to deliver insights
To give the recovery management team a cohesive overview of progress made in switching operations back on, our business intelligence experts developed a service recovery dashboard. This brings together data that previously might have been held in separate files across the organisation. It took us just two weeks to get this tool up and running. Insights from the dashboard are now helping the team manage and report on the recovery process, which is progressing at different speeds in different parts of the organisation, with clarity and confidence.
A joined-up response to benefit residents
Our work during the COVID-19 lockdown has been instrumental in bringing teams across Sovereign together to develop a cohesive response with residents at its heart. This experience will give extra momentum to Sovereign’s longer-term plans for developing new ways of organising and working. The changes will provide residents with quality homes that meet their needs, more opportunities to shape the communities they live in and easier access to more efficient services, such as setting up a tenancy or reporting maintenance needs.