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What will social housing look like in the future?

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Published: 14/08/2018   Last Updated: 15/08/2018  
Tags: Blog

Working on Salix Homes’ Mii-Home project has often made me consider what social housing services could look like in 10 years’ time. Technology will be at the forefront of all our services and the housing practitioners of the future will have to be as adept at technology as they are with people.  Below are my thoughts.  These are not tomorrow’s world ideas as most of them are happening now, meaning what is considered cutting edge today will certainly be the norm in the future.  

1. The use of traditional channels such as phone and e-mail will disappear, being overtaken by web chat, Twitter and video conferencing. Omnichannel contact will be the norm. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be advanced enough by this point to allow chatbots to provide the advice that customers want. This means the customer will not have to subsequently ring a call centre for a human to give the advice.  

At the same time integrated cloud-based software systems will provide greater integration between the front end and back office functions meaning chatbots will proactively communicate on a number of separate issues with the customer. An example of this would be if someone is communicating on webchat about a repair they can also be communicated with on their arrears and asked to make a payment before the repair order is made.

2. In-house repairs teams will become a thing of the past.  Instead, a body of local, hand-picked independent contractors for different repair categories will be available to carry out all types of repairs. Uber-style systems will allow the chatbot to send out a job order to the relevant contractor category, based on real-time information on customer ratings and availability, with the first to respond getting the work. The customer will receive a notification with the contractor’s name and photograph and will be able track their journey and when they are scheduled to arrive. 

A rating system will show the scores an operative has been awarded from previous jobs, with new customers being able to provide a rating themselves immediately following the completion of the work at their property.  As the scores go up and down, the position of the operative on the list of preferred contractors would alter, with the added incentive of automatically dropping off the list after a number of low customer feedback scores.

3. The ability of smartphones to support video chat will allow more customers to get involved with customer groups. In fact, VR will more than likely take over from face to face customer meetings and avatars will become more prominent.  Problems with face-to-face customer group meetings being held at times no-one can attend, or in buildings no-one can get to will become a thing of the past.  Instead, meetings can be accessed by anyone from anywhere.  This will mean a different profile of customer will find it easier to get involved. This could range from people in employment, to people who are disabled and find it difficult to leave their home, to young people who are more confident communicating in a non-verbal way.

4. In-house sensors will become the norm in new social properties, monitoring water flow and energy usage. Any notable changes to the normal levels used triggering alerts to the providers that something is about to happen and go wrong, leading to an operative being automatically sent out to the property to correct the problem, before something breaks down.

Other types of sensors will monitor the behaviour of residents, monitoring their movement around their property over the previous 24 hours and whether they used the toilet or had a wash.  These sensors will help identify people who are isolated and whose well-being may be at risk.  Also, if a person’s behaviour becomes erratic and agitated, then their favourite music or film could be automatically played to help calm the person down. Lighting could automatically be altered to help create a more soothing atmosphere for the tenant.

Changes in the normal behaviour of a tenant might also indicate a medical intervention is required. AI monitoring this behaviour will be able to diagnose the condition and alert the relevant medical consultants, arranging an appointment and a driverless car to pick up the tenant and take them to the appointment.  A care programme put in place will include a robot in the property to support the individual, enabling them to remain in their home for longer.

5. New homes will be built by 3D printers, meaning the time taken to construct a new property could take a matter of days rather than months. Render and external paint will be applied using drones, meaning the need for scaffolding will be eliminated- thereby saving money and inconvenience to local residents.

The success of these changes will be measured both in improved financial viability and the speed, responsiveness and efficiency in dealing with customers. The smartphone provides instant access to the internet for our customers and this increased level of accessibility means today’s housing tenant demands a 24/7 customer service experience.  It also means they have the power to praise or criticise us in real-time via social media based on their experience of the services we provide.

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