Number of complaints
Overall, we have fewer complaints than we did last year. We have recorded 264 complaints in the first half of the year.
At the end of September, we have received 22% fewer complaints. A reduction in complaints has been a trend over the past three years, but this year it is for extraordinary reasons.
In the spring, our services were affected by the first COVID-19 lockdown and some of these were paused. Customers were reluctant to have our teams visit their homes and service requests were considerably lower than normal.
September 2020 is the first month we have seen an increase in complaints compared to September 2019 with 55 complaints compared to 50.
Length of time to respond
Early progress this year to reduce the time it takes to respond to complaints has been reversed. It now stands at 29 working days, nine days over our target.
Some of this is due to COVID-19. We were unable to close many complaints about our repairs service during lockdown as follow on works were needed. It is our current policy to hold a complaint open until all actions have been completed.
We are sorry for the delays this will have caused for our customers. We are looking into ways in which we can shorten this process and will be consulting customers about this before the end of the calendar year.
The number of customers who are satisfied overall with how we have handled their complaint has reduced slightly from 63% to 62%. Our target for this year is 65%.
This is an improvement on last year’s position, but we want to do better.
It is pleasing to see positive responses from customers about the different aspects of how we handle their complaints:
- Customers finding it easy to use our process - 61% for April-September (target 60%)
- Easy to communicate with – 79.5% for April – September* (target 80%)
- Kept you informed – 77% for April – September (target 75%)
- Fully addressed issues – 72% for April – September (target 70%)
*100% of respondents in September said our team was easy to communicate with.
Types of complaints and outcomes
Seventy per cent of our complaints have been about repairs. Our most common complaints about repairs involve our management of leaks in properties and issues with boilers. Our customers have also contacted us to make complaints about lift failure and damp and mould in their properties.
We carry out around 200,000 repairs each year. The number of repairs complaints is a small fraction of this, but they are important because they frustrate and inconvenience our customers.
Other common complaints include service charges, communication and ASB handling.
We resolved 229 complaints between April and September 2020. Of these:
- In 48% of cases we did not agree we had failed in our service delivery
- In 32% of cases we agreed we had failed in our service delivery and agreed with the customer how to put things right
- In 20% of cases we agreed we had failed in part of our service delivery and agreed with the customer how to put things right.
How complaints have helped us change our services
Last year, we brought people from a range of teams to review service charge issues, processes and communications. We investigated how we can rebuild customers’ confidence by increasing transparency in the way charges are calculated and services provided. To help to drive these improvements forward, this year we formed a dedicated Customer Service Charges team to respond to and resolve more complex customer queries. We still receive high volumes of enquiries and it can take longer than we would like to provide answers, but we believe this is a better approach for customers.
During September we fed back to Senior Managers the areas where we could see a consistent trend in complaints being received. These managers have been asked to review and confirm back recommendations for improvements. One of these important areas is the management of leaks in our homes. We will be able to provide you with more information on this in our next complaints performance update in January.
Customer volunteers join our Complaints Board
Our Customer Involvement team has recruited two resident volunteers to join our internal Complaints Board. These volunteers will help inform our approach to reviewing complaints themes and trends and how we improve services based on this learning. They will also be asked to join wider discussions with customer groups.
The Housing Ombudsman Service
We work closely with the Housing Ombudsman Service. If you have a complaint, you can contact the Housing Ombudsman Service for advice at any point.
In July 2020, the Housing Ombudsman Service published a New Complaint Handling Code. Like many landlords, we are reviewing our approach to make sure we comply with the requirements of the Code.
We will consult with residents about any proposed changes to our approach.
Before the end of the calendar year we will complete a self-assessment of our complaints handling service against the Complaint Handling Code. We will publish this self-assessment and any actions resulting from it here early in the New Year.