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major survey in social housing identifies the ‘elephant in your digital room’

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In conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Alertacall has undertaken a major research project with social housing professionals in the UK to measure current perceptions of digital engagement in the sector. The survey also sought to understand the existing and future scope of providers’ digital initiatives.

Over 200 industry professionals participated in the research, with the data gathered using an online survey in August and September 2020.

The expression ‘digital agenda’ has been much used over the past 2-3 years in the sector. It could be driven by improving internal processes or by wishing to provide the resident with a better customer experience, both of which offer the prospect of cutting costs. Equally, is the focus short term, such as developing a resident app, or looking at longer term investments, such as replacing ageing analogue alarm systems. Certainly, with Digital Switchover affecting the entire UK telephone network in 2025 then every housing provider will need to prepare for its impact.

There is a sense of urgency that is apparent from those who participated in the survey. Almost three quarters of respondents (71%) felt the social housing sector was behind other sectors, and most even thought their organisation was also behind other providers.

The study highlighted many implications for housing providers, with perhaps the two biggest relating to barriers to increasing resident engagement, and the steps required to be ready for Digital Switchover:

  • Only a little over half of those surveyed (57%) had heard of the 2025 Digital Switchover, even amongst leadership teams. This will impact landline phones and most hard wired alarm systems, which may not work post Switchover. Given contracts with suppliers are often 5+ years there may be only one chance to look at the best solutions going forward between then and now.
  • The two biggest barriers to increasing digital engagement amongst residents are seen as ensuring residents have a suitable device and having internet connectivity. This is particularly so for older residents. Despite this, most providers have no current intention of providing digital devices or internet into residents’ homes.

Martin Cutbill, Director at Alertacall, commented:

‘Recently, a Director of IT for a large housing association said to me, ‘Well, if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we really need to get on with our digital agenda’.

The survey identifies that most housing providers have embarked on their digital journey, and there are many positives to be drawn in terms of technology and systems provided to housing staff. However, helping residents to transition to digital services clearly presents many challenges, and risks slowing the move away from the more expensive current channels if the issue of connectivity and lack of digital devices is not addressed by providers.’

The full survey results can be accessed here.

how is Alertacall helping address some of the key issues of digital engagement?

Alertacall has responded by developing solutions to solve these biggest challenges. Where our service is deployed we are able to provide a digital touchscreen or tablet to every resident. This does not need to be bought by the provider or the resident as it is supplied as part of the service. Similarly, the service is not internet dependent as our touchscreen comes with any network sim cards, so all that is required is mobile coverage.

We are also able to provide replacement solutions to hard wired alarms systems. Being WiFi based these can require dramatically lower investment cost compared with hard wired options. Recent innovations means this can have much greater functionality, linking with contact centres, door entry systems, and other IOT developments.

Again, to access the results, click here. If there are aspects of the research you would like to discuss, or understand more about how we can help you with your own digital agenda please get in touch by contacting Martin Cutbill, Director, or phone 0808 208 1234.