As an organisation we are most well known for our exclusive Planning for Real® model. This is a community planning process based on a 3D model which allows residents to register their views on a range of issues, to work together to identify priorities, and in partnership with local agencies go on to develop an action plan for change.
But that’s not all that we do. Although we are renowned for our work around neighbourhood action planning and regeneration, we are also working more and more on service provision and reform. The tools that we use and our inclusive and interactive approach lend themselves perfectly to working with organisations as well as communities to look at reforming the delivery of services.
We have 25 years of experience of designing and using tools to work through the issues involved in reforming the approach to delivery on key concerns for neighbourhoods, communities and individuals. For this project we have built on our experience and incorporated the tools that we use to develop a framework to help organisations consider and analyse their internal and external operations and develop service reform proposals.
In autumn 2011 we were asked by the senior management team of the Accord Group to design and test a framework which would offer a full systems analysis of the repairs service. The aim of this analysis was to develop recommendations for service reform which would lead to improved performance outcomes and increased customer satisfaction.
This project involved designing and facilitating a programme of activities to review the repairs process at the Accord Group in order to identify opportunities for improvements. The focus was on responding better to the priorities of tenants, which in turn would lead to a greater sense of ownership and joined up working and drive up both resident (customer) and staff satisfaction levels.
At the time of undertaking this work the repairs service at Accord was going through a period of transition. A new day-to-day responsive repairs contractor was about to be appointed and a new set of customer centric key performance indicators (KPIs) were being introduced as the basis for evaluating performance. This represented a real opportunity for the Group to take on board and respond to the recommendations which came out of this programme of activity.
Planning for Real (PFR) worked with staff representatives from all of the teams across the Group who were involved in the repairs service. We also worked with Accord Group residents from general needs and sheltered accommodation from properties in a variety of locations including Birmingham, Darlaston, Bloxwich, Halesowen and Coventry.
During the months leading up to this project we developed a framework for looking at service reconfiguration which could be applied to any service area. This built on Planning for Real® methodologies and principles and drew reference from the Spotlight model (which originated in Salford) which we had previously used when working with communities across the West Midlands local authority areas. Spotlight focuses on research and consultation to really provide an in depth understanding of the issue and how it affects communities.
There were four key stages to this repairs service project.
As part of the planning process an intensive scoping exercise was undertaken to gather baseline data and intelligence. This was imperative as a way of understanding how the repairs service currently operates and is currently regulated (both internally and externally).
Following a comprehensive review of the data and reports the PFR team was able to identify and pinpoint key issues, blockages and also successes (what is working well and how can we maximise on this) and potential areas for improvement or reform.
We then identified internal representatives from all teams or departments with a direct relationship with the repairs process. At the same time we worked with resident engagement staff to promote the project amongst residents in order to identify a cross section of tenants to attend workshops.
2. The issue – The repairs service
We facilitated separate workshops for both tenants and internal staff. Participants mapped the repairs service from beginning to end, testing this against the baseline analysis to confirm and verify potential issues or problems in the delivery chain and explore these in greater detail.
These workshops took place in February 2012. We ran three half-day staff workshops and four half-day resident workshops. In total 26 members of staff representing Assets, Care and Support, Maintenance, Finance, Customer First, Housing, DLOs, Property Services and Estate Services teams from across the Group and 63 residents (from a mix of general needs and C&S schemes) and support staff attended.
3. Service response
These first round workshops generated numerous suggestions of ways in which the repairs service could be improved.
Following the first round of workshops we produced a key findings report which was circulated to all stakeholders (including internal personnel and tenants) as a way of affirming findings and to provide the basis for service improvements moving forward. These findings informed the structure and design of the second round joint workshop which focused on identifying potential reform solutions and ideas for the future of the service.
4. Reform proposals
Working with all stakeholders in one collaborative workshop the next step was to identify potential reform solutions and ideas, focusing on the following;
- Transactional improvements i.e. are there some quick wins?
- Transitional reform – short to medium term reforms
- Transactional reform – delivery system rethought in a fundamental way and collective reshaping of service, could also mean significant cultural change and implications for the workforce.
The joint workshop took place in March 2012 and 19 participants (10 staff and 9 residents) came together to develop recommendations for how the repairs service could be improved in order to achieve better outcomes and meet the new customer centric KPIs.
This workshop was followed up with a final report presenting these recommendations. This report has the potential to be used by the Group to inform future decisions about the repairs service and as a basis for change.
The first round workshops produced a wealth of information and to assist in the analysis of these and in the delivery of the joint workshop) we identified four key stages to the repairs process. We grouped the issues raised by participants and the opportunities for improvements to the service around these four stages.
- Contacting Customer First; logging the repair / allocating priority
- Appointments / customer satisfaction forms
- Allocation of job to relevant tradesperson / skilled workforce
- The carrying out of the repair, chasing and signing off
For each stage there were a number of key issues identified by staff and residents. These issues were the basis for the suggestions which were put forward to improve the service.
Each of the four key stages are interlinked with issues having a knock on effect for other stages. Going forward it will be important to put systems and practices into place which eliminate or reduce the weaknesses at each of the stages. Below are a few examples of the types of issues that were raised:
Stage 1 – Contacting Customer First (repairs line); logging the repair / allocating priority
- inaccurate description of repair leads to wrong operative being sent
- inability to fix repair on first visit leads to more calls to repairs line and reduces customer satisfaction
Stage 2 – Appointments / customer satisfaction forms
- Appointment slots – too long / time wasted / contractor arriving at inconvenient times.
- Different information held about contact numbers for residents (frequently changing mobile numbers).
At the joint workshops we asked participants to carry out a ‘sticky dot’ exercise. The aim was to reduce the number of suggestions which had come out of the first round workshops. Participants indicated which of the suggestions they felt would both drive up satisfaction levels for residents and increase value for money (effectiveness, efficiency and economy). The suggestions which received the most votes or ‘sticky dots’ were used as the focus for discussions which followed and the recommendations which were put forward.
The recommendations which came out of the joint workshop are summarised below. We have categorised the recommendations according to whether they are dissatisfiers, satisfiers or delighters. For each solution put forward there are a corresponding set of specific recommendations which will each need to be considered, prioritised and allocated a timescale. Alternatively these could have been presented according to whether they represent transactional improvements (quick wins), transitional (short to medium term) or transactional reform (rethinking delivery system in a fundamental way).
Dissatisfiers – Causes dissatisfaction / irritation to the customer and needs to be removed as priority.
“It takes too long to report a repair!” “Improve the communication so I don’t need to chase up my repair”
- Increase the options for customers to report / discuss a repair
- Reduce the time taken to process a repair
- Remove “waste calls” coming into repairs line to allow time to be spent on “value add calls”
- Proactively communicate with residents about their repairs.
Satisfiers – The more you deliver the more it raises satisfaction levels.
“I want my repair fixed first time/repaired correctly”
- Increase First Time Fix
- Improve the appointment system
- Make it easier for residents to give feedback.
Delighters – The wow factors that will delight customers.
“Reduce the cost of reporting a repair/reduce the need to report a repair”
- Provide a free phone service
- Improve residents’ capability to perform repairs themselves
- Check for additional repairs when at the property.
The full set of recommendations was presented in our final report. The Group will be able to use this report to inform future decisions and as a basis for change.
One of the key aspects of this project is that stakeholders were involved at every stage in the process. The mapping activity was completed by staff and tenants, the suggestions for improvements to the repairs service were put forward by both staff and tenants, and crucially the recommendations for change were developed jointly by staff and tenants. This is where the PFR approach really delivers – with an inclusive, interactive and dynamic programme of activity, stakeholders interacting with a particular service can come together to gain an in depth understanding of that service and develop realistic, supported and achievable recommendations for change.
We hope to have the opportunity to work with the Accord Group on their repairs service again in the future. We would be keen to look at the impact and effectiveness of new measures introduced, measuring performance in accordance with the baseline data gathered during the first stage of this project.