We invited customers to give us their thoughts on our communications.

We received over 300 responses to our email, post and text message surveys and more than 40 residents across the country attended events to give their views in person.

We explored the accessibility, content and tone of our written and online communications. You can view the full results here.

Here's an update on the progress we have made so far:

You said: Our tone of voice lacks empathy. If our aim is for customers to engage with us, we need to show we understand their concerns.

We did: Our tone should be consistent across our all our communications. We need our customers to have an emotional connection to us so they have more faith and trust in us, choose to stay with us and share positive experiences of their customer journeys.

Customers and colleagues have worked collaboratively to agree five main keywords for our tone of voice:

  • Respectful
  • Passionate
  • Supportive
  • Competent
  • Flexible

All staff will be asked to use the new tone whenever they are communicating to make sure it becomes part everything we do and is followed by everyone.

You said: Our automated letters are too formal, cold and intimidating – particularly around arrears.

We did: We understand that lots of customers are struggling financially at the moment, through no fault of their own. During the pandemic, we stopped using our automated telephone system to send arrears reminders.

We tailor our arrears letters around individuals’ circumstances and try to get in touch with customers before they fall into arrears to avoid sending letters unnecessarily.

We worked with customers to review all our system-generated letters. You can see a ‘before and after’ example of a rent arrears letter here.

You said: Customers don’t always know who their customer partner is.

We did: We listed all our customer partners on our website.

We published a ‘Personal Statement’ to all households in 2020, introducing the Customer Partner and listing the type of queries they can help with. We’re planning to do the same again this year. You can see a draft of the 2021 Personal Statement here.

You said: Customer communication is ‘hit and miss’. We don’t give customers enough notice when we need them to take action.

We did: Managing customer data to deliver the right message to the right customers at the right time is challenging, especially when things change at short notice. We have published guidance to help Customer Partners/Homeownership Specialists communicate messages through a range of channels.

You said: Our online services are valued but are not always utilised to their full extent.

We did: While face-to-face contact is not possible, we’ve been exploring new and innovative ways to engage with customers. In 2020, we hosted our first Facebook Live event, where customers had the opportunity to have their questions about rent, income and benefits answered. More than 200 customers took part.

We’ve been using videoconferencing platforms like Zoom to hold meetings with customers on leasehold schemes to agree service charges.

What next?

We realise there is still more work to do to improve customer communications, particularly around:

  • Customer segmentation – the information we hold on our customers and how we use it.
  • Standard letters – all the system generated letters we produce. Now that we are about to launch our new tone of voice, these will all be reviewed by staff and residents to make sure they are in line with our new tone and what will be a new style of communicating for Accent.
  • Contractor engagement – making sure contractors engage with you in the right way.
  • Content strategy – what we communicate to you and when we communicate it.

Staff and residents will be working collaboratively to make this happen. Our aim is to make sure the communications we send customers are clear, relevant, personal and useful.

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