How getting to know our customers better is making a difference during Covid-19 and beyond


“Having good quality data about our customers means we can proactively design our services around their needs, putting them at the heart of everything we do. Having this insight means we can contact customers with targeted information relevant to them in times of need, like during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Neil Pollitt, our Assistant Director Business Intelligence and Insight.

Covid-19 response

Since the government announced the lockdown measures in England in March to limit the spread of coronavirus, more than 5000 of our potentially vulnerable customers have benefitted from welfare calls from our teams. Staff have been telephoning customers directly to see if they are safe and identify if they need any help, then matching their needs with support available in the borough.

Central to the success of this exercise was robust data about those of our customers who are at increased risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus due to their age.

Building a picture of our customers

Over the last three and a half years our Business Intelligence (BI) team and colleagues from across the organisation have been working hard to gather the quantitative and qualitative information needed to build a detailed picture and profile of our customers. Previously, data about those who live in our homes was held in multiple systems and formats and its quality varied widely.  This information has gone through a huge clean-up operation and brought into a single system that’s regularly reviewed for accuracy.

Reaching our customers quickly during the coronavirus pandemic is just one example of how we are using business intelligence to make a difference to customers’ lives, but it is supporting data-driven decision-making right across our organisation.

Helping customers experiencing poverty and financial hardship

Neil says: “The scope for using data to achieve improved outcomes for our customers in the longer term is huge. Among the projects underway is applying a model which uses customer insight around poverty and financial hardship to predict which customers will benefit most from The Bread and Butter Thing (TBBT) affordable food service that we’ve invested in this year.  This service provides our customers with a week’s worth of food at a fraction of its usual price

“The financial stress model uses information about payment behaviour – for example the value of rent that customers pay, frequency and recency of payments, and the channel they use to pay – to understand more about our customers’ circumstances and gives us a way to reliably identify those who are most vulnerable to food poverty.”

Since we launched our TBBT service to customers in November 2019, approximately 600 customers have accessed the offer. More than 400 of these have been proactively targeted by our Community Impact Team after data indicated that they were at risk of severe financial hardship.

Dave Brereton, Community Impact Manager says: “The financial stress model ranks customers according to their financial support needs, with decile one being low need and decile ten being high need. Our team is targeting customers in the uppermost deciles to help improve their situation before it worsens.

“To sense check the model we’re also comparing it with the customer referrals we get from the Income Collection department. These usually occur when customers have hit a trigger such as a missed rent payment or their direct debit bounces. When we look into these customers’ circumstances, we generally find that they are in the high deciles of our financial stress model – so both sets of data are telling us that the customers would benefit from support.

“Offering them our TBBT food offer frees up money in their pocket and means they don’t have to choose between buying food, paying bills or buying other essentials.

“We’re still in the early stages of this project but our long term aim is to use the financial stress model to help reduce the number of customers reaching deciles nine and ten and make a difference to our customers in greatest financial need.”

Increasing customer satisfaction

Elsewhere in the business, exploring customer feedback from touchpoint surveys has helped achieve a double-digit improvement in customer satisfaction scores in two years. Surveys are sent by SMS to customers whenever they interact with us for a service. Between 2017/18 and 2019/20, new tenancy satisfaction increased by 16%; and satisfaction with the Contact Centre service and garden maintenance services grew by 11% each. What’s more, the total number of customer survey responses grew by 45% in the same period. These provide our team with rich survey scores and customer comments which are brought back into the business, so we can develop our services in line with what customers want and value – or even design new ones if we can see a need there.

Neil adds: “Looking ahead we’ve got plans to start segmenting our customers according to how they interact with us and maintain their tenancy. Based on this we can put in place more targeted support to benefit them and free up resource to help those customers with higher needs. Putting customers first is what our business is all about and we’re making great strides in harnessing our data to make a positive difference to our customers’ lives.”