It may sound obvious, but involving a housing association’s customers in a contract prior to any work being carried out is of great importance if a contractor is to gain early buy-in from all stakeholders. Pre-work consultations present the opportunity for customers to have an input in many decisions, even down to the format and content of pre-work literature being issued.
Design consultations can also be carried out ahead of the work, and Novus’ customer support team often liaises one-on-one with those living in a property to establish their personal preferences – for example, they can specify the style of units they would prefer if kitchen refurbishments are part of a programme. If language is a barrier, services such as telephone interpreting can be called upon to ensure all customers are in the know.
Some housing associations, meanwhile, involve their customers even prior to a contractor being chosen, with panels having an input in the tendering process. This helps to gain their confidence during the primary stages of work, which sets strong foundations. Throughout work, it is important to remain in contact with clients and their customers, holding daily meetings and regular coffee mornings to ensure any issues are ironed out. Communication via other channels, such as social media, should also be encouraged – whether the feedback is positive or negative – to maintain and build good relationships with all stakeholders.
Plan and prepare
Providing customers with a step-by-step programme of works can be a great reassurance to them, but it is essential they realise that sometimes a programme can be held up for reasons beyond a contractor’s control. A programme will ensure customers have an idea of what will be happening around them on a day-to-day basis and an understanding that things don’t always go to plan. Giving people any necessary information with regards to temporary parking changes, deliveries or diversions, for example, is advisable as this will ensure logistics run smoothly for everyone involved.
At Novus, we take deliveries once a week on residential sites, rather than every day, to minimise disruption. If our team is working on kitchen replacements in one area, for example, we will ensure all kitchens are delivered on Monday and stored away ready for installation later in the week, so that vehicles aren’t constantly unloading and disturbing people in the vicinity.
Have a positive attitude
Those engaging with the community must be patient, approachable, a problem solver, friendly, quick thinking and a great communicator. If there has been a delay with work, for example, customers may be unhappy, so members of staff need to relate to people and listen to them in order to solve problems. A positive attitude and the ability to not take things personally is a must-have, and being open-minded is also an essential as customers are often from varying backgrounds and have different needs. This should be communicated to customer care staff, and also to operatives working on site.
Novus carries out ToolBox Talks with employees to ensure they are not only fully aware of the health and safety of themselves and those around them, but also aware of the code of conduct, values and mission of clients, so they can adapt and adhere to these when on-site.
Any waste material created during works should be cleared away at the end of every day and taken to a compound, while noise should be kept to a minimum if working near homes. As well as considering the immediate environment and customers’ comfort and health and safety, the wider environment should also be taken into account. Many of Novus’ clients monitor and measure our environmental credentials through Key Performance Indicators, including the amount of waste we send to landfill.
At Novus, we have reduced waste to landfill by 97% and continue to improve on this. Along with additional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activity, this has helped the company to secure the Responsible Small Business of the Year award at Business in the Community’s Responsible Business Awards earlier this year.
Give something back
Novus has a robust CSR strategy and strives to give something back to the communities within which it works – whether that is by hosting a fun day, completing a garden makeover or donating a bench to a local green space. Involving a housing association’s customers in something other than the work helps them to feel valued, included and invested in. For one client, Novus has recently held skills workshops to mentor customers in how to apply wallpaper, while when carrying out work for another client, a local community centre was given a makeover with help from children at a nearby school.
Meanwhile, we have also offered work placements, apprenticeships and other recruitment opportunities to local people during contracts. This ensures people in the area gain more than just a new kitchen or redecorated home from the contract and creates buy-in, keeping all stakeholders and the wider community feeling positive.